PRINCETON, N.J. – When the 2012 Olympic cycle concluded in London last summer, Mike Gennaro had gained a year full of experience that ended with his being named an alternate to the team.
Henrik Rummel left London with a bronze medal.
Saturday morning, the veteran and the newcomer to the brand new Olympic cycle got the next four years off to the best possible start by winning their event at the National Selection Regatta #2 on Lake Mercer in West Windsor, N.J.
They were one of six crews that, by winning, have gained the opportunity to compete at one or both of the scheduled World Rowing Cup events, and with a top four or top half finish, earn a berth on the U.S. National Team that will compete at the 2013 World Rowing Championships August 25-September 1 in Chungju, South Korea.
“When I think about how far away four years is, it does sound like a long time,” Gennaro said. “Especially thinking about how long it was between the start of the eight selection camp, ‘til when they named the boat, ‘til the Olympics, ‘til after the Olympics.
“A year, itself, can be a long time. Four years is even longer. It’s good that we have short-term goals – like NSR #1, NSR #2, the world cup, the world championships – it gives us these goals to work towards, and that breaks up the cycle. I’m glad the Olympics aren’t this year, because we need a lot of time to get ready for the Olympics.”
So for now, most everyone who raced at Mercer Lake May 16-18 has one big goal in mind, the next step, one or both of the upcoming world cups, and then making the team that will compete for the U.S. in South Korea.
Six boats classes raced for selection and one, the lightweight men’s pair, raced in a speed order event, an exercise to gauge the men who will try to make the lightweight four that will compete at worlds.
Like Rummel, of Pittsford, N.Y., and Gennaro, of Haverford, Pa., some of the crews were a mix of veteran and rookie, while other were experienced national team athletes.
The morning started with racing in the women’s pair. London Olympic women's eight gold medalist Meghan Musnicki (Naples, N.Y.) and Taylor Goetzinger (Mt. Pleasant, Mich.), racing as an entry from the USRowing Training Center – Princeton, won, crossing the line in 7:16.92.
Behind them were two other USTC crews, Felice Mueller (Cleveland, Ohio) and Vicky Opitz (Middleton, Wis.), who finished second in 7:18.62, and Lauren Schmetterling (Moorestown, N.J.) and Grace Luczak (Ann Arbor, Mich.), who crossed third in 7:19.53.
“Winning an NSR race means you get a chance to go and race internationally at one of the world cups, and it’s always important in the (Olympic cycle) to get as much racing experience as you can on the international level to see what it’s like to race other countries and not just your teammates and be in a different atmosphere,” said Musnicki. “It’s about building for the whole process.”
Next up was the women’s double sculls final. The USTC entry of Beijing Olympian Ellen Tomek (Flushing, Mich.) and Meghan O’Leary (Baton Rouge, La.), another athlete setting out for her first senior national team birth, won in a time 7:09.32. Tomek and O’Leary were ahead of the composite entry of London gold medalist Esther Lofgren (Newport Beach, Calif.), rowing for Potomac Boat Club, and California Rowing Club’s Stesha Carle (Long Beach, Calif.), who finished second in 7:14.17.
The composite entry of USTC – Princeton’s Liv Coffey (Watkins Glen, N.Y.) and Vesper Boat Club’s Grace Latz (Jackson, Mich.) finished third in 7:21.79.
“For me, this is pretty exciting,” said Tomek. “I haven’t been on the team since 2009. So it’s been a while and it seems like a really long time, but that said, I do feel like I have done this before and I bring that to the boat. It is a step by step process to make the team, and this is step one,” she said.
“The goal is to make the team and go to worlds,” said O’Leary. “But we’ve only been in the boat together for a couple of weeks. We have a big ceiling to reach in terms of potential and speed to gain, and so we go to work.”
The men’s pair was next and Gennaro and Rummel, racing as a USTC composite entry from Princeton and Oklahoma City, won in a time of 6:39.91, but have decided to decline their world cup berth.
“The pair is not our priority this year, and so we declined the world cup berth for it and we’re going to focus on the four and the eight. Those are our priority boats," said Rummel.
Two other USTC – Princeton entries finished behind them. The crew of 2012 Olympian Grant James
(DeKalb, Ill.), who with pair partner Seth Weil
(Menlo Park, Calif.), crossed second in 6:43.58, while Steve Kasprzyk
(Cinnaminson, N.J.) and Max Goff
(Sun Prairie, Wis.) finished third in 6:44.96.
In the men’s double sculls, Potomac Boat Club’s entry of Matt Miller
(West Springfield, Va.) and Willie Cowles
(Farmington, Conn.) won in a time of 6:32.37.
“Our race plan was to start fast and settle into a rhythm,” said Cowles. “These guys are fast off the line and I think we executed reasonably well. We had a pretty quick start and we were kind of in lockstep with them for the first thousand (meters).
“Both of our strengths lie in base rhythm, and so we knew if that happened, we had enough power to walk in the third five hundred,” he said.
The Craftsbury Sculling Center entry of Ben Dann
(Pound Ridge, N.Y.) and John Graves
(Cincinnati, Ohio) finished second in 6:34.93. The Bantam Boat Club entry of brothers Thomas Graves
(Cincinnati, Ohio) and Peter Graves
(Cincinnati, Ohio) finished third in 6:49.61.
The lightweight women’s double was the next event and the winning boat featured two experienced scullers, USTC – OKC’s Kate Bertko
(Oakland, Calif.), a three-time national team athlete and silver medalist, and 2012 Olympian Kristin Hedstrom
(Concord, Mass.) of California Rowing Club. They won in a time of 7:12.31.
“Coming into this year, I didn’t know what was going to happen,” said Hedstrom. “I didn’t know how soon I was going to want to get back into competition and everything. What I realized as the year went on, is that what it comes down to is, I love to race,” she said.
“We’re going to hopefully do either one or two of the world cups and get as much racing experience as possible, since this was our first week racing together,” said Bertko.
Finishing second in the event was Seattle Rowing Center’s Helen Tompkins
(Friendswood, Texas) and Emily Gade
, who crossed in 7:25.85. The composite crew of Riverside Boat Club’s Hillary Saeger
(Dedham, Mass.) and Potomac’s Devery Karz
was third in a time of 7:27.75.
In the lightweight men’s double, the composite entry of Malta Boat Club’s Colin Ethridge
and Vesper Boat Club’s Peter Alter
won in a time of 6:48.52. Riverside’s Andrew Hashway
(West Boylston, Mass.) and Jacob Georgeson
were second in 6:50.35. Vesper’s Michael Orzolek
and Peter Schmidt
finished third in 6:52.75.
The final event of the morning was the lightweight men’s pair speed order event. All three top boats were crews with athletes from the USTC – OKC. The crew of 2012 Olympians Robin Prendes
(Miami, Fla.) and Anthony Fahden
(Lafayette, Calif.) won in a time of 6:46.16.
“It was a pretty standard race, same race plan that we had last summer, just a couple of moves, nothing special, a couple of technical calls. I don’t think we said much during the race,” said Fahden.
The crew of Will Daly
(Vail, Colo.) and Bob Duff
(Huntington Valley, Pa.) finished second in 6:51.34. The composite crew of Craftsbury Sculling Center’s Philip Grisdela
(Great Falls, Va.) and USTC – OKC’s Greg Flood
(Tulsa, Okla.) finished third in 6:54.29.
For complete NSR #2 results, visit www.usrowing.org
. In addition, race clips from the A and B finals will be available for purchase next week at http://www.usrowing.org/Multimedia/VideoDownloads.aspx