American James Wright was two ergs away from Germany's Floyd Benedikter and one away from Alexandr Matveev of Russia, when all three Under-19 athletes competing in the first World Rowing Indoor Championships approached the final 500-meters.
For most the piece, Wright was rowing in third place, and it was looking like no one was going to catch Concept2 Team Germany's Benedikter. But Wright had a plan that he based on a bad result from an erg competition he competed in two weeks prior to this event, one in which he sprinted early and then fell apart.
"That was at the Main Line Slide," said Wright who rows for Philadelphia's Germantown Friends School. "I went around the 500-meter mark, and it was too early. With 200-meters left, my splits went uncontrollably up. So, I learned the hard way not to go too early."
Saturday, on the first day of the 2018 Erg Sprints | World Indoor Rowing Championships, Wright stuck with his original race plan and his goal to go when he was ready. "I saw I was in third for a lot of the race, and I was actually pretty cognizant of not going too early because of what before," Wright said.
"My plan all along was to go negative split all the way, that's how I pull my pieces the best," he said. "Coming into the sprint, I really didn’t care where I was. I know that if I stay within myself and just do what I'm supposed to do at my shifts in the race, then whatever place I come in is where I come in."
Where he came in was first.
"This time, I waited until I knew I was in striking distance, and then I just kind of let it all go and tried to make up all the ground that everyone had on me." Wright mowed past Benediker and Matveev and won in 6.08.7. Matveev finished second in 6:10.03 and Benediket finished third in 6:10.08.
"This is my first time at a really big erg race," Wright said. "I've never been to C.R.A.S.H.-Bs and coming here, I was in awe and just wanted to execute the plan that I came in here with. I'm really pleased."
Alexandr Matveev, James Wright, Floyd Benedikter
Wright's race was one of four junior 2000-meter events raced as part of the World Indoor Rowing Championships program that was dove-tailed into the event that has been run for more than 30 years as the Mid-Atlantic Erg Sprints, an event held as an annual booster for T.C. Williams Crew.
With the two combined events, more than 2,300 athletes are competing in T.C. Williams High School gym in Alexandria, Virginia, Saturday and Sunday. The racing got started early Saturday with the traditional Erg Springs' 30-minute pieces and then continued with various sprint races for all age categories throughout the day.
The new combined even is the first of what is set to become be a permanent addition to World Rowing's championships events. Sunday's racing will begin again in the morning and will feature marathon and half marathon pieces, along with the remainder of the World Championships events.
Erg Sprints Scene
So far, the combined programs have gone smoothly, even if some of the races they were long and painful - 30-minutes long.
"I have no real sane reason for doing this except to beat my friend," said 54-year-old Kris Ellis, an Army officer currently stationed in Germany who was in D.C. on business this week and took advantage of the opportunity to win the Veteran A men's 30-minute row.
"This was my first time racing 30 minutes," Ellis said. "I've done the full marathon and half marathon, which is exponentially worse than 30 minutes. So, after you've rowed that far, the 30-minutes doesn’t seem that bad."
Ellis is slated to race a 2k Sunday, but is going to pass on the longer marathon and half marathon events, which are also on the schedule. "I've never raced either of those. I did them in my own gym.
"I'm aware that they have them, but I'm not going to do one. My excuse is that's the same day as the 2K I'm pulling, so I'm not doing it. But that is a total excuse."
Click here for complete results for the Erg Sprints events and World Rowing for the World Championships events.