Not the Worlds? Open Winner Andrew Raitto and his coach don't care.
For those who follow rowing seriously, the 2018 CRASH-Bs took place under a shadow of no longer being designated the World Indoor Rowing Championships, that title having been bestowed upon a new FISA event that will begin to rotate to sites around the world after 2019. But for the casual observer, and for the over 1300 athletes who made the trip to Boston on a bleary Sunday in February, CRASH-Bs was (and still is) about pursuing the coveted hammer.
As a regatta, the 2018 CRASH-Bs was undoubtedly diminished; with almost 1000 fewer competitors than last year, fewer spectators, and fewer ergs on the racing floor (60 this year, as opposed to 96 in previous years), the regatta struggled at times to make BU's Agganis Arena feel full, despite the fact that 1300 people ripping on ergs is still a lot of people. All things considered however, the racing was once again as fierce as you might expect.
With most of the international "heavy-hitters" out of the picture, the Open field was, well, open, and 2018 saw a number of new faces on the CRASH-B podium.
Merrimac River's Andrew Raitto took his first hammer at CRASH-Bs in 5:54.8. "We didn't see any really heavy hitters here this year, but that also meant that there was a chance I could win, but I didn't really know, I wasn't going to be pulling mid 5:40s today!" said Raitto after the racing. "I stuck to the plan, went out at my pace, and had a little bit left for a sprint at the end. It's a little surreal to be holding this hammer right now."
Dartmouth athletes rounded out the Open Men's Podium behind Raitto, with the Big Green's Noah Van Dyke's 5:58 claiming U23 and Collegiate gold along with his overall silver. Teammates Oliver Bub (6:01) and Clayton Kiyonaga (6:02) rounded out the collegiate and U23 podium. The Dartmouth Open Men were the only top-end collegiate team to make a committed appearance at the regatta, a fact that chagrined a few observers.
RBC's Kelly Albanir took the Open Women's event
In the Open Women's event, Riverside's Kelly Albanir took her first hammer, leading her RBC teammates Erin Roberts, a former lightweight national teamer racing up a weight class on the day, and Charlotte Smith to the podium. Albanir finished in 6:58, Roberts notched a 6:59, a rare feat for a lightweight rower, and Smith stopped the clock at 7:03.
"The goal was just to break 7:00, and I did that," said Albanir. "It wasn't a PR - I haven't done a 2k since May 2016 - so this was a 'getting back into it' kind of thing. It was great to be up there with other Riverside rowers, it's nice to have that community; even when you are warming up and you see all the striped unis all around you, it's really cool."
The U23 and collegiate medals were taken by MIT's Abbey Diener, Madeleine Boutet of Williams and Northeastern's Emma Samek.
Once again, the Junior Men and Women provided the largest fields at CRASH-Bs, and their friends, families and teammates made the arena the loudest of the day. One school of thought was that the lack of international juniors at the event would bolster the junior numbers somewhat, as more kids would come out of the woodwork to give it a go on the big stage, and while that was not quite the case, the juniors racing was once again epic.
Alexandr Matveev won the Junior Men's Event with a torrid sprint
No race at the event was tighter, and no sprint more epic than that of Russian Alexandr Matveev in winning the Junior Men's title. Racing tightly and trading leads with Dallas United's Eric Martin for about 1750, Matveev unleashed a bonkers last 200 meters to pull ahead of Martin with about 3 strokes to go, winning in the day's closest margin of 1/10th of a second. (When row2k tried to catch up with Matveev at the awards ceremony, his father shook his head and said "No English," or about as polite a "Nyet" as you can imagine.)
In the Junior Women's event, Saugatuck's Sydney Kend had a six-second lead at the 1000 meter mark and didn't look back, finishing in 7:01, which would have been good enough for a podium spot in the Open Women's race. Kend was ecstatic with her win, and, in contrast to the Junior Men's winner, had plenty to say.
"It's always been a dream to come home with a hammer, I'm still kind of in shock I am holding it right now," said Kend. "I have such a great support team; my coach told me 'You are going to crush it this weekend,' I had the world's best coxswain, and I'm just glad I had this opportunity today. I remember coming here my sophomore year, and it was just such an amazing experience, and I don't think much has changed, it's still really competitive."
Saugatuck's Sydney Kend won the Junior Women's event
Henry Bellew of Bethesda-Chevy Chase and Peter Skinner and Carl Borsotti, both of New Trier High School, made up the podium for the Junior Lightweight Men, whileMarguerite Trost of the Nashville Rowing Club blew away the competition in the Junior Lightweight Women, finishing over 14 seconds ahead of Wayland-Weston's Kyra Patterson and City Island's Noa Bregman.
Adam Conrad and Heather Schmidt of Niskayuna made it a Nisky sweep in the Youth Men's and Women's (12-13 year-old) 4 minute event.
Masters & Veterans
The change in the world champs designation also lopped off the top end of the field in the Masters and Veterans events, but all of the local stalwarts still made the trip to Boston for a turn at the wheel, including the events oldest competitors, John Sheehy, who competed in the Men's 85-89 category, and Dottie Stewart, who returned to Boston at age 97 after winning the event for the first time last year.
You're never too old to be 'Born to Erg'
Longtime CRASH-B competitor Marcos Cesar Morales (who seems made for erg competitions) was one of several attendees to compete at both the World Indoors in Alexandria, and Boston a week later. Morales finished second at the Worlds, but won CRASH-Bs handily, which in all makes it a solid road trip for him.
Henry Palmer of Durham Boat Club celebrated his first piece back at CRASH-Bs after 13 years away with a decisive win in the Men's 30+ category.
"It has been 10 years since I have done a 2k and the last thing I wanted to do was blow up halfway through and make a spectacle of myself," said Palmer. "I had more than a few moments during the piece where I had the classic 'I have made a terrible mistake coming here today' thoughts. I beat my score from 13 years ago and managed to also get away with winning a fantastic hammer. Not a bad day."
Palmer also reflected on how the event has changed since his last trip. "The one great thing that has noticeably changed over the years is how much more inclusive the event has become. It is awesome to see all different ages and categories of athletes from rowing and non-rowing backgrounds showing up in the cold wet days of February to throw down a piece and measure themselves against other athletes," said Palmer. "CRASH-Bs and indoor rowing regattas are such a wonderfully simple concept and I'm excited to see how much they have caught on and grown over the years."
The adaptive events at CRASH-B had light fields this year, and for observers of adaptive rowing it can be tricky to square the rowing opportunities for disabled athletes with the maze of categories offered, and with the differences between events offered at CRASH-Bs and at the World Indoors. Nevertheless, the growth of adaptive indoor rowing will continue to bring new athletes into the sport; see also our feature on two UK adaptive rowers, Sean Gaffney and Nerys Pearce, who competed in Boston this weekend.
Lightweights & Flyweights
Oklahoma's Melissa Patten accomplished one of the rarest triples in rowing, capturing the Lightweight Women's Overall, U23 and collegiate titles in the Lightweight Women's event; for those scoring at home, that's three gold medals and a hammer. Patten was followed by Merrimack's Tasha Wypych and MIT's Liz Martin.
Also collecting three golds and a hammer was Harvard's Drake Deuel, who posted a scorching 6:05.1 to win the Light Men's event almost 30 seconds ahead of Trinity's Charles Koontz and Riverside's Amel Younis.
A new category this year, the Flyweight events saw small fields of smaller rowers getting their chance to shine. Both of the non age-restricted events were won by locals, with Jason Leong of Cambridge Boat Club and MIT's Brigid Bane taking top honors.
"I'm really glad that the Flyweight event was added into the CRASH-Bs program because it offers lighter athletes a higher level of competition," said Duxbury's Declan Driscoll, who finished third in the event. "The event put me against other athletes around my size, and it was much more intense and exhilarating than it would've been had I been rowing against bigger athletes."
The Long View
New CRASH-B Commodore Amanda Milad had the unenviable task of shepherding the regatta through a year of enormous changes (read our feature about the history and recent changes to the CRASH-Bs here), but by her accounting, it was still a great day in Boston.
"I think it went really well," said Milad. "We had a fabulous group of athletes that came in, a really wonderful group of volunteers and new timing crew that came in, and they had a really successful day. I think everyone was really happy. The regatta's late this year, the Charles has been open, and I think there's definitely been a case of people wanting to be on the water rather than still training on the ergs."
The Flyweight events, the much improved timing system and the changes to the Team event that averaged the team member's splits across all four events were well-received by participants, and Milad indicated that the CRASH-B board would continue to work at keeping the regatta function at a high level. "We plan to continue on as we have, reassess in a couple weeks, figure out what worked this year, what didn't, and what can we improve on and go from there."
Notes from the Course
Regatta beards? check, check and check.
The new timing and software system used at the CRASH-Bs this year, by the Dutch company Time Team is epic; the race results gives every rower at the regatta a chart of loads of data of their piece, allowing you to relive virtually every stroke of your race (or not, whew).
The oddest effect of the smaller crowd was that, irrespective of the weather outside, the 2018 CRASH-Bs was the coldest indoor regatta this writer can remember, with far fewer bodies moving around in the building and heating up the arena, which nominally serves as BU's ice rink. Others thought so too. "I was freezing all morning, until all the Juniors showed up and started rowing," said longtime Riverside Coach Tom Keister.
More than once, as event winners mounted the podium to receive their awards, a family member or friend would shout out "it's Hammer time!" Does that joke get old? Nah.