What started out Monday morning as a full docket of racing to fill up the roster spots on the 2017 Junior and Under-23 World Rowing Championships squads has been whittled down to the second finals in five junior events.
Those remaining races are scheduled for Thursday afternoon on Mercer Lake, and if weather conditions don't mess things up, and the crews that won in the morning's first finals prevail in the afternoon, all but the selection camp crews will be named for the two US teams (U23 and U19) that will compete internationally this summer.
Because junior team trials are contested in a best of three format, racing could spill over into Friday. But in the under 23 events, all of the remaining 12 crews were decided. In total 16 Under 23 crews were named during racing this week.
Of the 12 finals run Thursday morning, many of the events were won comfortably, especially those that started before a light cross wind at the top of the course became a gusting cross wind that challenged crews at the start and through the first 500 meters.
As is often the case when racing is less than competitive and the conditions are pretty much a non-factor - that and none of the expected winners suffer course altering misadventures - the post-race comments and race details were - well - kind of dull?
Phrases like "stayed internal," "trusted the training," "stuck to the race plan," dominated the early after event interviews, at least the ones row2k conducted. That's not to say the athletes are boring, or their efforts undeserving; it's just when there isn't a lot to talk about, there just isn’t a lot to talk about.
But there was some excitement on the docks from a few of the crews - especially in the lightweight boats which saw most of the closest matchups - and in crews either going for their first U.S. uni, or who were overcoming nerves and bad starts. In those races, the comments were much more colorful and entertaining.
James Frances from NYAC wins the U23 lightweight single
The first of the tight races Thursday came in the lightweight men's single when Narragansett Boat Club's Hector Formoso-Murias took a lead and held it into the final 500 meters, but was then chased down and caught by both SoCal Sculler's Sam Melvin and James Frances of New York Athletic Club.
Melvin took the lead from Formoso-Murias first, and then James took it - and the win - from Melvin just about at the line.
Out of breath and full of noticeable excitement, James jumped from his boat on one dock, sprinted past his coach and over to an adjacent dock to congratulate the other athletes.
"Oh, my God that was so much fun," James said. "Those guys are fast, man, really fast. Honestly all I was thinking (when down) was just stick to the training. Most people fade in the third 500 meters, and I kept it strong through there.
"I didn't really focus on the first thousand meters, I just kind of found my tempo and then the training kicked in for the last thousand. I checked out the race a few times, but all I was thinking was, just win the race. Just churn the butter."
Also wound up on the dock after winning was Brigid Saoirse Kennedy who rowed in the lightweight women's double from Narragansett Boat Club.
Narragansett Boat Club lightweight women's double
"I haven't stopped shaking yet," Kennedy said. "I am so excited. Our start was pretty funky because there was a great cross wind up at the start. We started really far off our course and managed to get it back and then we stayed clean and calm and blasted it from the 500 onward.
"We've trained a lot in these sorts of conditions. We row on the Seekonk River in Providence, which has similarly choppy conditions, so we were calm and collected and we raced our race," she said.
One of the better stories of the day came out of the SoCal Scullers lightweight men's double of Daniel Madden and Galen Bernick, two athletes who were overcoming both adversity and nerves.
Bernick rowed in the 2014 junior national team and was looking toward a second national team berth in 2016 but was seriously injured in a car accident the day before leaving for trials. He suffered breaks in both legs and feet, but made it back to compete with Madden, a former college teammate from Mercyhurst.
SoCal Sculler lightweight men's double
"I've come a long way since the injuries," Bernick said. "Danny and I rowed at the same school and talked all last year about this. We stayed in contact throughout the year and just kept saying 'Let's hit this hard. Let's do this,' and it manifested itself and we made it happen."
Unlike Bernick, this is Madden's first national team and the days between time trials and finals were long and fitful.
"It was rough," Madden said, "not rough that we rowed bad, but rough because I was about ready to throw up over the last two days with the nerves. But I think we did a great job just being in our boat.
"We knew our start wasn't going to separate us from the pack so we just wanted to take one stroke at a time and walk away over the course, and it turned out that way.
"But this is my first trials, my first time trying to make a team," Madden said. "I've had some long nights trying to fall asleep. We watched a lot of Netflix in the hotel room, went through about all the seasons of one show (13 Reasons Why) and a few episodes another (Stranger Things), and it looks like it did the trick."