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Record setting day for US team at the Junior Worlds

Credit: US Rowing: Clark Dean

Record setting day for US team at the Junior Worlds


Led by gold-medal performances from men’s single sculler Clark Dean and the women’s four, the United States delivered a record-setting day on Sunday at the 2018 World Rowing Junior Championships in Racice, Czech Republic.

For the first time in history, the U.S. team came away with two gold medals and seven total medals from the World Rowing Junior Championships. In addition to the two golds, the U.S. won silver in the men’s four with coxswain, women’s pair, women’s eight and men’s eight, as well as a bronze medal in the women’s four with coxswain.

The seven medals bested the previous record of six set in 2016 in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. It also was good enough to put the U.S. atop the medal table ahead of Italy and Germany with five.

In the men’s single, Dean (Sarasota, Fla./Sarasota Crew) defended his world title, besting Australia’s Cormac Kennedy-Leverett by 3.63 seconds to win the gold medal. Dean sat in fourth just off the pace at the 500-meter mark behind Kennedy-Leverett, Germany’s Moritz Wolff and Belgium’s Tristan Vandenbussche. Dean began to pick off the field over the second quarter of the race as disaster struck for Wolff, the reigning silver medalist in the event. The German capsized at the 750-meter mark, and Dean took advantage, moving into the top position as the scullers hit the midway point.

“I knew it was going to be a really different race than last year,” Dean said. “Last year, obviously Moritz was fast, but going into the final, it was basically a duel in my head with him. This year, I knew that whatever it was, it was going to be more than just a duel. Today and yesterday, I practiced pulling back in the first 500 just to save myself. I just wanted to find a pace and move right through.”

Dean began to walk away in the third quarter of the race, and despite clipping a buoy which brought him to a standstill, he was able to increase his margin over the final 500 meters. Dean finished with a time of 7:01.37, with Kennedy-Leverett taking the silver medal. Vandenbussche finished third.

“Last year, being the top single sculler in the world was a great feeling,” Dean said. “Coming back to it this year, the whole year of training was a completely different thought process – just thinking how painful it would be for someone who I beat the year before coming up and passing me where everyone would think that he must have worked harder than Clark. Walking away today, I have no doubts that this year was the hardest I’ve ever worked in my life, and it’s a good feeling knowing that’s true.”

After coming from behind to win its semifinal on Saturday, the women’s four of Catherine Garrett (Darien, Conn./Connecticut Boat Club), Margaret Hedeman (Concord, Mass./Community Rowing, Inc.), Julia Braz (Sarasota, Fla./Sarasota Crew) and Kelsey McGinley (Westport, Conn./Saugatuck Rowing Club) raced to the lead in the first 500 meters and then held off a late challenge by Italy to win the gold medal. The U.S. grabbed the early lead on the field and built a half-length advantage on Italy by the midway point. Italy tried to push back in the third 500 meters, but the U.S. responded to take a four-seat lead going into the final quarter of the race. Heading into the final 300 meters, Italy began to close the gap, but the U.S. was able to withstand the challenge. The Americans clocked a 6:42.81 to win by 0.39 seconds. New Zealand won the bronze medal. For the U.S., it was the ninth consecutive year on the medal stand and first gold medal since 2015 in the event.

“In the heat, we had a pretty rough race. We crabbed in the last 250 and that was not exactly what we wanted to do. In the semifinal, we just set out to have a really clean race and do whatever we could to get our bow-ball across first. I think that really prepared us for today,” said McGinley. “In the semi, we were second for almost the whole race and just passed through in the end. Today, we knew we could do it just right off the bat.

“That’s really what kept me coming back each year,” McGinley said on winning gold after being in the boat the last three years. “I really wanted to come back and have one last shot at getting it done. It’s such a great feeling knowing that this hasn’t been just one year of work put into this, but it’s been three years. It’s not just the girls in the boat but everyone I’ve been with for the last three years and everyone at camp has gone into making this happen.”

In the men’s four with coxswain, the crew of coxswain George Doty (Corte Madera, Calif./Marin Rowing Association), Michael Fairley (Saratoga Springs, N.Y./Saratoga Rowing Association), Chase Haskell (Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla./ The Bolles School), Owen King (Montclair, N.J./Montclair High School) and Henry Bellew (Bethesda, Md./Harvard University) once again used a fast start to establish a lead, but it wasn’t enough as Italy used its sprint to overtake the American crew in the final 500 meters to win gold with the U.S. taking silver.

The American crew grabbed the early lead over the Czech Republic with Italy in fourth. The Italians moved into second at the midway point but still trailed the U.S. by 2.30 seconds heading into the back half of the race. The Americans continued to lead through the 1,500-meter mark, but Italy’s sprint was too much. At the line, Italy clocked a 6:17.49, with the U.S. crossing in a 6:19.98. Australia won the bronze medal. For the U.S., it was the best performance in the event since winning silver in 1998.

“We had a really clear race plan trying to get out in front early,” Doty said. “We definitely did that. We knew Italy was going to have a really fast second half, so we really grinded through that third 500. Once we hit the 500 to go, Italy had way more gears than we expected. We were the last boat selected at camp and were seat-racing for the longest time out of everyone, so it was really cool to show up and be the underdogs and come out and have a really, really good showing here.”

In the women’s pair, Lucy Koven (Greenwich, Conn./Greenwich Crew) and Caitlin Esse (Fairfield, Conn./ Saugatuck Rowing Club) kept the crew from Chile at bay to win the silver medal behind Greece. The Greek crew of Christina Bourmpou and Maria Kyridou, which set a junior world’s best time in the semifinal, took the race out hard and established a length lead in the first 500 meters with the U.S. in second. The top two crews began to push away, with the Chileans sitting about a length back in third. While Chile tried to close the gap on the U.S., Koven and Esse were able to respond and maintain their margin. At the line, Greece won gold in a 7:17.10, with the U.S. finishing second in a 7:23.61. Chile finished third, another 3.10 seconds behind. For the U.S., it was the highest finish in the event since a silver medal in 2012.

“I think it was the best race we could have had,” said Koven. “This week was both of our first times ever racing internationally, and we’re on the younger side. We have another year of eligibility. I think that this was just an incredible experience. We’re both very competitive people, so obviously you want to win, but that Greek pair is incredible and that Chilean pair is incredible. I think we are just so fortunate to get to race against such amazing racers.”

“It’s really surreal,” said Esse of winning a medal. “I think Lucy described it well. It’s in both of our natures to really want to win, but at the end of the day, it’s such an honor to race with such incredible boats. I’m definitely really happy with my first international racing experience.”

The women’s eight of coxswain Alin Pasa (Westport, Conn./Saugatuck Rowing Club), Hannah Schaenman (Rye Brook, N.Y./RowAmerica Rye), Jessica Mixon (Brentwood, Tenn./University of Pennsylvania), Francesca Raggi (Maitland, Fla./Winter Park Crew), Azja Czajkowski (Imperial Beach, Calif./San Diego Rowing Club), Larkin Brown (Chattanooga, Tenn./Girls Preparatory School), Isabel Mezei (Brookfield, Conn./Saugatuck Rowing Club), Gabrielle Graves (Vashon, Wash./Burton Beach Rowing Club) and Samantha Henriksen (Chicago, Ill./Chicago Rowing Foundation) won a silver medal, overtaking Romania as the crews crossed into the final 500 meters. The defending world champions from the Czech Republic led from start to finish to win the gold medal. The U.S. got off the line in fourth position and remained there through the halfway point. However, the U.S. passed Germany in the third quarter of the race and pulled within a bow-ball of Romania at 1,500 meters. The American boat walked away from Romania in the sprint to earn the silver medal. The Czech Republic won the race in a 6:27.81, with the U.S. finishing in a 6:29.62. Romania won the bronze medal. This was the first time since 2015 the U.S. reached the medal stand in the women’s eight and best finish since 2012.

“I think what helped us so much here is how much we trust each other,” Czajkowski said. “Everybody in this boat knows they can rely on one another. Being down off the start, I think that really helped us carry through and put us on the podium.”

The men’s eight of coxswain Dylan White (Newport Beach, Calif./Newport Aquatic Center), Harrison Schofield (Sarasota, Fla./Sarasota Crew), Eli Kalfaian (Milford, Conn./Princeton National Rowing Association/Mercer), John Mark Ozaeta (Moraga, Calif./Oakland Strokes), Harrison Burke (Westport, Conn./Saugatuck Rowing Club), Nicholas Fisher (West Hartford, Conn./Kent School Boat Club), Charles Fargo (Winnetka, Ill./New Trier High School Rowing), Henry Lowe (Pacific Palisades, Calif./Deerfield Academy Crew) and Ryan Beeler (Melrose, Mass./Boston College High School) gave the U.S. its fourth silver medal of the day, finishing less than one second behind Great Britain as the crews crossed the line. The U.S. and British crews were separated by less than a half second through the first 1,000 meters, with the Brits holding about a deck advantage going into the back half of the race. Great Britain made its move in the third quarter of the race, extending its margin to four seats as the boats entered the final 500 meters. The U.S. tried to close the gap but couldn’t chase down the Brits. Great Britain finished with a time of 5:37.56, with the U.S. crossing in a 5:38.34 to place second. Germany finished third for the bronze medal. This was the fourth consecutive silver medal in the event for the U.S.

“We came out of the blocks swinging,” White said. “We got up maybe three seats on Great Britain and a length on the whole field, and as we came into the middle 500, Great Britain made their move, started really pushing hard, and they got up about four seats. Coming into the sprint, we tried to fight, tried to get ahead, but just came up a little short. We were going for gold, but having to go through the reps and being able to get silver, I’m happy as I can be. We put together the fastest race we possibly could have, and I am happy with the result.”

In the inaugural women’s four with coxswain final, the U.S. crew of coxswain Caroline Ricksen (Orinda, Calif./Oakland Strokes), Heidi Jacobson (Greenwich, Conn./Connecticut Boat Club), Kaitlin Knifton (Austin, Texas/Texas Rowing Center), Julia Abbruzzese (Ridgefield, Conn./Connecticut Boat Club) and Noelle Amlicke (Westport, Conn./Saugatuck Rowing Club) won the bronze medal. The U.S. sat in third place off the line but overtook the early leaders from the Ukraine in the second quarter of the race as Italy took the lead. The Americans moved into second position, just ahead of the Australians, heading into the final 500 meters, but Australia was able to push its bow ball ahead in the final few strokes. Italy won the race in a 7:14.19, with Australia finishing second in a 7:16.92. The U.S. clocked a 7:17.59.

“We went into it not knowing what to expect,” said Ricksen.” We didn’t have a very good heat and decided to change some things for the repechage, which ended up being a lot better. We headed into the final just ready to improve again. Off the line, we were down in fifth, but we didn’t let that get to us because we knew we had super, solid base.”

Camille VanderMeer (Elmira, N.Y./ Narragansett Boat Club) and Sarah McErlean (Vevey, Switzerland/ Club Aviron Vevey) used a strong middle 1,000 meters to win the B final of the women’s double sculls and finish in seventh place overall. VanderMeer and McErlean got off the line in fourth position before beginning to close the gap at the midway point of the race. The U.S. crew then made its move into the top spot during the third 500 meters. VanderMeer and McErlean finished with a time of 7:25.01, just over two seconds ahead of Japan.

Grant Person (Newport Beach, Calif./Newport Aquatic Center), Alexander Degrado (Jacksonville, Fla./Sarasota Crew), Zachary Vachal (San Francisco, Calif./Pacific Rowing Club) and Kai Hoite (Berkeley, Calif./Oakland Strokes) led off the B finals for the U.S. crews with a fourth-place finish in the men’s four, finishing 10th overall. The crew got off the line in sixth before moving into fourth position during the third quarter of the race. Croatia won the race in a 6:10.76, followed by Germany and Serbia less than two seconds behind. The U.S. crossed the finished line in a 6:13.75.

In the women’s quadruple sculls, the U.S. crew of Bridget O’Callahan (Los Angeles, Calif./California Yacht Club), Emmeline Laurence (Greenland, N.H./Great Bay Rowing), Kathleen Dolan (Barrington, R.I./Narragansett Boat Club) and Delaney Evans (Bettendorf, Iowa/Y Quad Cities) also finished fourth in the B final for a 10-place finish overall. The U.S. sat just behind New Zealand the entire way down the course but could never get through the Kiwis for third. Italy won the race in a 6:47.92, followed by Denmark. The U.S. finished in a 6:55.57.

The men’s quadruple sculls crew of Nathan Phelps (Ridgefield, Conn.), Emory Sammons (Fort Plain, N.Y.), James Wright, (Philadelphia, Pa.) and Kristopher Schumann (Sarasota, Fla.) finished fourth in the B final for a 10th-place finish overall. The crew rowed in third through three-quarters of the race before Denmark passed the Americans in the final 500 meters. New Zealand won the B final in a 6:00.59, followed by Denmark and Switzerland. The U.S. finished with a time of 6:06.47