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Three U.S. Crews Win Heats at 2018 World Rowing Championships

Credit: US Rowing

Three U.S. Crews Win Heats at 2018 World Rowing Championships


Three U.S. crews won their heats on Monday to highlight the second day of racing at the 2018 World Rowing Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.

The PR3 mixed four with coxswain advanced to the final with its victory, while the women’s four and women’s single sculls advanced to their respective semifinals. In addition, the women’s double sculls advanced to the semifinals off of a second-place finish in its heat.

Coming off of four consecutive silver medals in the PR3 mixed four with coxswain, this year’s crew of coxswain Jenny Sichel (Clifton, N.J.), Danielle Hansen (Patterson, Calif.), Charley Nordin (Alameda, Calif.), Mike Varro (Spooner, Wisc.) and Allie Reilly (North Kingstown, R.I.) began its quest for the top of the medal stand in strong fashion, dominating its heat to advance to Saturday’s final. The U.S. boat took the lead off the start, generating a four-second advantage over Ukraine in the first 500 meters. The Americans built their open-water lead to more than eight seconds by the halfway point and continued to walk away from the field over the final 1,000 meters. At the line, the U.S. clocked a 7:12.84 to finish more than 10 seconds ahead of Canada. Great Britain won the other heat to also advance to the final.

“It was exactly what we set out to do,” Sichel said. “We’re excited to go straight to the A final with some good competition in Great Britain.”

“(We) just need to stay focused and keep doing the same things that we’ve been doing so far. Have fun!” Nordin said.

The U.S. women’s four of Erin Reelick (Brookfield, Conn.), Molly Bruggeman (Dayton, Ohio), Erin Boxberger (Overland Park, Kan.) and Madeline Wanamaker (Neenah, Wis.) held off a late charge from China to win its heat and advance directly to Thursday’s semifinals. The U.S. crew took an early lead on the Chinese boat and continued to build its advantage through the 1,500-meter mark.

“We just were eager to get the first (race) under our belt and make it as aggressive as possible from start to finish,” Bruggeman said.

China began cutting into the lead during the final sprint, but the Americans were able to stave off the challenge. The U.S. finished with a time of 6:30.22, with China coming home in a 6:31.40.

“I think, from that race, we learned a couple of things we want to tweak, develop and build on,” Reelick said. “It’s great to have that experience. We have a few extra days now to mentally go over things, physically work things out and recover as best we can.”

Women’s single sculler Kara Kohler (Clayton, Calif.) gave the U.S. its third heat win of the day, using a dominant second half of her race to earn a spot in Friday’s semifinals. Austria’s Magdalena Lobnig, the silver medalist from the 2018 European Rowing Championships, held a slight advantage over Kohler at the first 500-meter split before the Californian took the lead in the second quarter of the race. Kohler walked away from Lobnig in the third 500 meters, en route to a nine-second victory. Kohler finished with a time of 7:30.55, with Lobnig taking second in a 7:40.13.

“What’s really special for me is the name of my boat, the ‘Kiss the Joy,’” Kohler said. “To be able to represent Joan (Lind Van Blom) and that community is pretty inspiring to me. Obviously, (I’m) really glad to come away with the win and progress to the semis on Friday.”

Defending world championships silver medalists Meghan O’Leary (Baton Rouge, La.) and Ellen Tomek (Flushing, Mich.) finished second in their heat of the women’s double sculls to advance directly to Friday’s semifinals. Great Britain took the lead off the start, with four crews sitting just off the pace as they hit the 500-meter mark. With two to advance, O’Leary and Tomek began to pull ahead of the other three contenders as the boats hit the halfway point and took command of the qualifying position in the third 500 meters. Still sitting about 2.5 seconds behind the British crew, O’Leary and Tomek closed a bit of the gap in the final 500 meters, easily earning a qualifying spot. Great Britain won the race in a 6:53.28, with the Americans finishing in a 6:55.11.

“We knew it was going to be super-fast and that we needed to be ready for six boats across going for two spots to go directly to the semifinals,” Tomek said. “We had a bit of a rough start. We were definitely sixth of the line, but we got into a decent rhythm, a little bit muscley, but plugged away and brought ourselves back to second.”

The lightweight women’s quadruple sculls crew of Hillary Saeger (Dedham, Mass.), Margaret Bertasi (London, England), Christine Cavallo (Windermere, Fla.) and Michaela Copenhaver (Berkeley, Calif.) finished second to China in its heat and will race in Wednesday’s repechage for a second chance to advance to the finals. Racing in the faster of the two heats, the World Cup III gold medalists from China led from wire-to-wire, clocking a 6:23.17 to win by more than three seconds. The U.S. finished in a 6:26.61, with Great Britain less than a second behind. Italy won the other heat in a 6:27.84.

“Honestly, the race went pretty well,” Cavallo said. “We haven’t had the chance to line up next to a lot of crews, definitely not any lightweight women’s quads, so this is the first time going up against some really fast crews. It was awesome to be on the line with them.”

In the lightweight men’s quadruple sculls, the U.S. crew of Alexander Loy (Ballston Lake, N.Y.), Sam Hausmann (Buffalo, N.Y.), Michael Landuyt (Grosse Pointe, Mich.) and James Nelson (Austin, Texas) will head to Wednesday’s repechages after finishing fifth in its heat. Germany pulled away from Turkey to earn the lone qualification spot for the final. The Germans finished with a time of 5:50.44, with Turkey finishing just over three seconds back. The U.S. sat in fifth at each of the 500-meter splits, crossing the line in a 6:02.13.

After finishing fourth in his heat, men’s single sculler Kevin Meador (Berkeley, Calif.) came from behind to win the repechage to advance to Wednesday’s quarterfinals. With two to advance, Meador crossed the midway point in third place behind Australia’s Luke Letcher and Egypt’s Abdel Khalek Elbana, but Meador used the fastest second half of the race to overtake Elbana with about 750 meters to go and then Letcher in the final 400 meters. Meador finished with a time of 6:56.56, with Letcher taking the other qualifying spot in a 7:03.33.

In the lightweight men’s double sculls, Hugh McAdam (Hollis, N.H.) and Peter Schmidt (Providence, R.I.) finished sixth in their repechage and now will race in Saturday’s E final for places 25-26. McAdam and Schmidt rowed in fifth position for most of the race, before dropping to sixth in the final few strokes. Spain won the repechage in a 6:20.61. The U.S. finished in a 6:31.40.

Two U.S. para-rowing crews will hit the water for the first time on Monday.

In the PR1 men’s single sculls, five-time national team member Blake Haxton (Columbus, Ohio) returns to the world championships after finishing sixth in 2017, the first year of the 2,000-meter race distance for the event. Haxton will take on scullers from Russia, Japan, Belarus and Nigeria in the third of four heats, with the top two finishers moving directly into the semifinals.

With only six entries in the event, the PR2 mixed double sculls duo of Laura Goodkind (Los Angeles, Calif.) and Ron Harvey (Long Beach, Calif.) will compete in a race for lanes on Tuesday against boats from The Netherlands, Latvia, Ukraine, Brazil and Poland. Goodkind, who also is racing in the PR2 women’s single sculls, has raced the PR2 mixed double the last two years, finishing 10th in 2017. Harvey is a 10-time national team member, having raced in the PR1 men’s single sculls (formerly arms and shoulders) from 2004-2012. The Netherlands, Ukraine and Poland captured the three medals in 2017.

The men’s four of Alex Richards (Watertown, Mass.), Michael Clougher (Canton, Mass.), Nick Mead (Strafford, Pa.) and Dariush Aghai (Skokie, Ill.) will race in a repechage on Tuesday against crews from the Czech Republic, France, Switzerland, and Austria. The top two finishers will advance to Thursday’s semifinals.

Close to 950 athletes from 62 countries are scheduled to race in Plovdiv. The U.S. has the largest team, with entries in 27 of the 29 events across the eight-day event. The regatta offers racing in the men’s and women’s single sculls, lightweight single sculls, double sculls, lightweight double sculls, pair, lightweight pair, quadruple sculls, lightweight quadruple sculls, four and eight, as well as the para-rowing men’s and women’s PR1 single sculls, men’s and women’s PR2 single sculls, PR2 mixed double sculls, PR3 mixed double sculls and the PR3 mixed four with coxswain.