Just as soon as the women from the University of Washington eight had their boat put away, three of them headed straight for the Princeton Training Center tent on the athletes enclosure to find their teammates.
They were not looking for the women they had just raced with to a win in the quarter final of the Remenham Challenge Cup at the 2018 Henley Royal Regatta, but their teammates from the US Under 23 eight they had just defeated.
It's not unusual for athletes from different boats to congratulate each other after a race, but this scene was a little different because the three University of Washington women and the athletes from the opposition boat have been training together in Princeton, New Jersey since the end of the college year and will be back together Monday to prepare for the 2018 World Rowing Under 23 Championships in just over two weeks in Poznan, Poland.
And while the women knew coming over to Henley-On-Thames that racing against each other was a possibility, they still wanted to get to together to make sure everyone was still friends and on the same page for the upcoming World Championships.
Which apparently, they were.
"This summer just feels really special," said Marlee Blue, who rowed Washington's six-seat and will row it again in the Saturday semifinals. "Just from day one, it has been unreal, from the momentum to the depth of the team in camp. Just the fact that we had 12 athletes here at Henley, some racing against each other, that will be racing together in Poznan shows how special it is."
The PTC U23 eight
While the situation might have seemed strange to some, it had been prearranged even before the U23 camp began. The University of Washington had several seniors that were wrapping up their collegiate careers, and the Washington crew wanted this last time to race together.
From a development perspective, the U23 coaches wanted to be at Henley to get their crews some racing experience, and to see how they would perform as a group under pressure. With both eights entered, along with a four, they were able to increase that kind of exposure to a larger group - even if it means part of the group gets beaten in competition.
Washington, which is mostly made up of the team that won the NCAA Championship in 2017 and were second at this year's NCAAs, took an early lead from the start and were never overly challenged by the camp boat.
"I think these guys are such competitors, it's hard for them not to take the task at hand and hold on to it, but the most important thing is that we're using this regatta as the preparation for the U23 World Championships," said US coach Megan Cooke Carcagno. "So, if we learn something about racing, learn something about ourselves, then it benefits everyone."
Washington head coach Yaz Farooq agreed that all of the women got something from being here together, especially from the standpoint of a college team turning over a group of successful seniors.
"They're all friends," Farooq said. "You have a bunch of people out there who all know each other, have rowed together, and have raced together as team USA, so there is a lot of respect and a lot of true friendship out there.
"But, you know how Henley is, and the draw is what it is. I can't say that anyone was excited that they were going to go up against, and race, their teammates, but they knew that was what the draw dictated.
"Still, this is the last time a bunch of our girls are going to row together and that senior class was so special, so in addition to Blue, Elise Beuke, and Brooke Pierson coming out of the Under 23 camp, Brooke Mooney, Karle Pittginger and Jessica Thoennes came out of the senior camp so they could all get together and have this race at Henley, it was really special."
UW is celebrating a special senior class