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Gold for US Women's Fours

Credit: US Rowing

Gold for US Women's Fours


he women’s four took the lead in the first 250 meters of its medal race and pulled away from the rest of the field to win a gold medal on Saturday, the second day of finals at the 2018 World Rowing Championships.

The gold was one of four medals for the U.S. team today, including silver medals for the lightweight women’s double sculls and PR3 mixed four with coxswain. The PR3 women’s pair also won gold, as the lone entry in the event.

In the women’s four final, the crew of Madeline Wanamaker (Neenah, Wis.), Erin Boxberger (Overland Park, Kan.), Molly Bruggeman (Dayton, Ohio) and Erin Reelick (Brookfield, Conn.) trailed slightly off the line but quickly moved into the top spot, building about a one-seat lead on Denmark at the 500-meter mark. The U.S. continued to press forward in the second quarter of the race, taking nearly a length on the Danes at the midway point, with the defending world champions from Australia sitting in third.

“We had a great heat and a great semi,” Bruggeman said. “Our plan was to execute our race plan and do it better. We wanted to stay very focused on us and what we were doing and not worry about what anyone else was doing. I think that really worked out for us. I wasn’t looking out the boat the whole time. I didn’t care what place we were in. I knew all I had to do was follow Reelick and pull as hard as I could.”

Australia pulled into second as the crews crossed into the final 500 meters, with the U.S. still holding about a length. While Australia cut off a bit of the deficit in the final sprint, the Americans came away with the 1.52-second victory with a time of 6:25.57. Australia won silver, with Russia coming back from sixth to win the bronze.

“It’s redemption from last year,” Bruggeman said. “We crossed fourth (in 2017), and (Erin and I) told ourselves that we never want to feel like this again. It feels so good right now. I never want to feel anything but this.”

After leading for much of their semifinal on Thursday, the lightweight women’s double sculls tandem of Emily Schmieg (Philadelphia, Pa.) and Mary Jones (Huntsville, Ala.) had to come from behind in the last 500 meters in today’s final to earn a spot on the medal stand. Great Britain and the defending champions from Romania took the early lead, with the British crew in first after 500 meters. The Romanians moved into the top spot during the second quarter of the race and pushed their advantage on the field to a length with 500 meters to go. The U.S. sat in fifth position at the midway point, less than a boat length out of a medal spot.

Crossing the 1,500-meter mark, Great Britain, The Netherlands and Switzerland were within a half-deck of each other for second place, with the U.S. still in fifth another half-deck down. But, the American crew was able to break through the British and Swiss boats and then edged out the Dutch crew at the line by less than 0.3 seconds. Romania won the race in a 6:50.71, with Schmieg and Jones finishing in a 6:52.30. The Netherlands crossed in a 6:52.56.

“It’s a culmination of months of hard work, weeks of just every day going at it – this is how we get to the A final, this is how we execute, this is how we end up on the podium,” Schmieg said. “There was just complete trust throughout that whole piece, knowing that the field was just going to rip through it. We just had to trust our base and in the calls that we practiced. Mary listened to every call. We just went together, and it was enough to get us from fourth to second.

“This field is so talented. Any number of like 12 boats could be in this final. On this day, to be good enough for second place, is really just awe-inspiring, and it’s fantastic to do it with Mary. I’m just stunned.”

For the fifth consecutive year, the PR3 mixed four with coxswain of Allie Reilly (North Kingstown, R.I.), Mike Varro (Spooner, Wisc.), Charley Nordin (Alameda, Calif.), Danielle Hansen (Patterson, Calif.) and coxswain Jenny Sichel (Clifton, N.J.) won the silver medal, finishing just behind Great Britain. The Brits were first off the line, but the U.S. took a deck advantage at the 500-meter mark and still held the slightest of margins at the midway point. The two crews battled bow-ball to bow-ball through the third quarter of the race, trading leads with virtually every stroke. Great Britain inched ahead at the 1,500-meter mark and then was able to move through the American crew over the final stretch.

“It’s all about progress,” Hansen said. “I feel like when you are going for a medal you want to PR each time and the fact that we were able to be closer this year is really encouraging. I’m really proud of our crew and what we were able to throw down today.”

Great Britain finished with a time of 7:00.36, followed by the U.S. in a 7:02.13. France claimed the bronze medal.

“Even from the start of the summer, this boat has come together so much both in the boat and outside of the boat,” Sichel said. “As a crew, personality wise, we’ve all come together and our rowing stroke has definitely improved. We’ve become a lot faster.”

With Italy withdrawing before the start of competition in the PR3 women’s pair, Jaclyn Smith (Williston Park, N.Y.) and Hansen rowed solo down the course during their preliminary race. On Saturday, Smith and Hansen, who won silver in the PR3 mixed four with coxswain earlier in the day, claimed their gold medal in the event, while getting the opportunity to race in the C final of the women’s pair. The duo crossed the line with a time of 7:39.30, setting a new World’s Best Time in the process, and finishing a little less than eight seconds behind France’s women’s pair.

“It was (a lot of fun); it would not have been the same kind of experience if we didn’t have other boats out there to race with us, so a big thanks to The Netherlands, Poland and France for letting us join them,” Smith said. “We hope that next year, and in years to come, there are more and more entries.”

The women’s quadruple sculls crew of Elizabeth Sonshine (Short Hills, N.J.), Emily Huelskamp (Sainte Genevieve, Mo.), Maureen McAuliffe (Herndon, Va.) and Kara Soucek (McCall, Idaho) finished sixth in its final. Poland and Germany were in a tight race through 1,000 meters before the Polish boat took control of the gold-medal position. The Netherlands rowed in third place for most of the race, with China making a strong challenge over the final 750 meters. The U.S. was just over a length off the medal-pace at the midway point but could not get on terms with the lead boats. Poland won the race in a 6:08.96, with Germany finishing second in a 6:11.42. The Netherlands won bronze in a 6:11.79, with China finishing 0.06 seconds behind. The U.S. finished with a time of 6:18.15.

The PR2 mixed double sculls duo of Ron Harvey (Long Beach, Calif.) and Laura Goodkind (Los Angeles, Calif.) finished sixth in its final. The Netherlands’ Corne De Koning and Annika Van Der Meer won the gold medal in an 8:07.92, setting a new World Championships’ Best Time. Poland won the silver medal, followed by Ukraine with the bronze. The U.S. boat finished with a time of 9:29.80.

In the B final of the women’s pair, Vicky Opitz (Middleton, Wis.) and Gia Doonan (Rochester, Mass.), who are doubling up in the women’s eight, rowed to a third-place finish to claim ninth overall at the championships. After trailing Australia off the start, Great Britain won the race in a 7:17.46. Rowing virtually even 1,000-meter splits, the U.S. got off the line in sixth position before using its strong base rhythm to move into second place with 500 meters to go. Australia was able chase the Americans down in the final sprint to place second. The U.S. finished with a time of 7:17.46.

The men’s quadruple sculls crew of Erik Frid (Madbury, N.H.), Michael Knippen (Germantown, Wis.), Gregory Ansolabehere (Bakersfield, Calif.) and Justin Keen (Hatfield, Pa.) came in fifth in the B final for an 11th-place finish overall. The U.S. rowed in fifth, just off of fourth-place France for the first 1,500-meters of the race before the French crew pressed ahead to overtake Russia for third. Great Britain won the race in a 5:39.88, less than a second ahead of Germany. The U.S. clocked a 5:47.85.

The men’s four of Alexander Richards (Watertown, Mass.), Michael Clougher (Canton, Mass.), Nick Mead (Strafford, Pa.) and Dariush Aghai (Skokie, Ill.) took over the lead in the second quarter of the race and rowed to a victory in the C final to place 13th overall. The crew clocked a 5:48.74 to finish 2.52 seconds ahead of France.

In the C final of the men’s pair, Poland bested the U.S. duo of Michael Colella (Kensington, Md.) and Anders Weiss (Barrington, R.I.) at the line for second place by less than a bow ball. Australia rowed at the front of the race throughout with the U.S. in second position. Poland held off a charge from Ireland in the third 500 and used the momentum to catch the U.S. at the line, winning by 0.01 seconds. Australia won in a 6:23.81, with Poland finishing in a 6:27.28 and the U.S. in a 6:27.29.

Men’s single sculler Kevin Meador (Berkeley, Calif.) finished second in the D final for a 20th-place finish overall. Australia’s Luke Letcher won the race in a 6:54.32. Meador clocked a 6:56.64.

In the lightweight men’s double sculls, Hugh McAdam (Hollis, N.H.) and Peter Schmidt (Providence, R.I.) won the E final to finish 25th overall. The U.S. led Russia the entire way down the course, finishing in a 6:28.65.

The U.S. will have six crews racing for medals on Sunday.

In the women’s double sculls, defending world silver medalists Meghan O’Leary (Baton Rouge, La.) and Ellen Tomek (Flushing, Mich.) held off the reigning world champions from New Zealand in their semifinal to advance to the finals. In what is shaping up to be a very tight final, O’Leary and Tomek will try to repeat that performance on Sunday as they take on New Zealand, Canada, The Netherlands, Lithuania and Great Britain. Canada won the other semifinal, just ahead of Lithuania. The top four qualifiers’ times were within 0.8 seconds of each other in the semifinals.

In a photo-finish decided by about a bow-ball, the men’s eight of Alex Karwoski (Moultonborough, N.H.), Glenn Ochal (Philadelphia, Pa.), Tom Peszek (Farmington Hills, Mich.), Tom Dethlefs (Lawrenceville, N.J.), Conor Harrity (Weston, Mass.), Mike DiSanto (Boston, Mass.), Andrew Reed (Wayland, Mass.), Patrick Eble (Fort Washington, Pa.) and coxswain Julian Venonsky (Malvern, Pa.) bested Australia to win its heat to advance to the final, setting a new World Championships’ Best Time in the process. The U.S. will face off against Germany, Australia, Italy, Great Britain and Romania in the final. Germany, the defending world champions, won the other heat.

The women’s eight of Kristine O’Brien (Massapequa Park, N.Y.), Felice Mueller (Cleveland, Ohio), Vicky Opitz (Middleton, Wis.), Gia Doonan (Rochester, Mass.), Dana Moffat (Manlius, N.Y.), Tracy Eisser (Fair Lawn, N.J.), Emily Regan (Buffalo, N.Y.), Olivia Coffey (Watkins Glen, N.Y.) and coxswain Katelin Guregian (Detroit, Mich.) proved to be in top form in its heat, winning by nearly three seconds to advance to Sunday’s final. The U.S. will take on Australia, Romania, The Netherlands, Great Britain and Canada in the final. Australia won the other heat.

Women’s single sculler Kara Kohler (Clayton, Calif.) finished second in her semifinal behind Switzerland’s Jeannine Gmelin, the defending world champion, to advance to Sunday’s final. Kohler used a strong second half of the race to advance and will take on Gmelin, as well as scullers from Ireland, Austria, Denmark and Germany, in the race for the medals. Ireland’s Sanita Puspure won the other semifinal.

In the first semifinal of the PR1 men’s single sculls, Blake Haxton (Columbus, Ohio) used a strong sprint over the final 500 meters to move from fourth to second to advance to the final. On Sunday, he will take on the semifinal winners from Ukraine and Australia, as well as Russia, Great Britain and Brazil. Ukraine’s Roman Polianskyi clocked the fastest time in the semifinals.

PR1 women’s single sculler Hallie Smith (Washington, D.C.) earned her place in Sunday’s final thanks to a second-place finish in the repechage. Smith led through 1,000-meters before Germany’s Sylvia Pille-Steppat moved into the top spot. The two scullers join the heat winners from Norway and Israel, as well as Italy and Canada, in the final. Norway’s Birgit Skarstein, the defending world champion, set a World Championships’ Best Time in the heat and is the prohibitive favorite.

In addition, the men’s double sculls of John Graves (Cincinnati, Ohio) and Ben Davison (Inverness, Fla.) will race in the C final for places 13-18. Graves and Davison will take on Greece, Slovenia, Argentina, Croatia and Ukraine.