ROTTERDAM, The Netherlands -- Awaiting their gold medals, the women of the under 23 four were excited but poised. While their campaign in the four had turned out wildly successful, ending in the first U.S. gold medal of the largest international regatta ever and seiting a world-best time to boot, they still had a job to do.
Finishing in 6:27.28, Sarah Dougherty (Kent, Wash.), Regina Salmons (Methuen, Mass.), Gia Doonan (Rochester, Mass.) and Kendall Brewer (Austin, Texas) broke the previous world-best time set by Germany in 2011 by 7.13 seconds.
Down off the start, the U.S. seamlessly walked through the crowd-favorite Dutch crew in fewer than 15 strokes to move from second place to an open-water lead over the field.
"We have a really good five hundred focus move to hit our base," said stroke seat Dougherty. "We are very confident in our first 250, and regardless of what happens, we come together and focus in after the first five hundred meters to really crush our base speed."
Despite the dominant performance, the women knew that they could only celebrate so long as all four will need fresh legs and a clear mind tomorrow afternoon for the final of the women's eight.
"We have such a strong women's program between the junior, under 23 and senior team," said Brewer. "We are just trying to continue that whole process of having that strong sweep program. It has a lot to do with the people back at home and everyone who went to camp. This medal is just a reflection of all the work that everyone did."
In response to setting a world-best time the crew had just one thing to say: on to the next one.
"The recovery game has already started, and we are ready to go," said Salmons "We are always excited to race the eight."
The performance marked the second record-breaking finish for the U.S. women's sweep boats as the junior women's pair broke a 10-year world-best time during its heat on Wednesday morning. In total, the U.S capitalized on just one of its medal opportunities Thursday with one gold medal, two fourth-place finishes and two sixth-place finishes.
Finishing just shy of the podium in fourth place, Kendall Chase (Evergreen, Colo.) and Georgia Ratcliff (Falls Church, Va.) finished 0.3 seconds behind bronze medal-winning Russia in 7:10.60. The duo held second position for the first half of the race and sat in third coming into the final 500 meters but couldn't hold on for a podium finish. Canada led the entire way down the course, winning in a 7:07.49. Italy used an impressive sprint to take the silver medal.
In an equally close final, Avery Reavill (Culver, Ind), Brooks Reavill (Culver, Ind.), Cuyler Hamilton (Wayne, PA) and Michael Colella (Kensington, Md.) finished in fourth place in the men's four final with a time of 5:54.73. Austria held off Great Britain to win gold, while New Zealand made a furious push to secure the bronze medal by 0.83 seconds.
Rielly Milne (Seattle, Wash.), Samuel Pettet (Seattle, Wash.), Arne Landboe (Shoreline, Wash.), Ezra Carlson (Eureka, Calif.) and Sean Kelly (Princeton, N.J.) clocked in a time of 6:15.48 for sixth place in the men's four with coxswain final. New Zealand claimed the gold, with Italy and Australia taking silver and bronze.
Also placing sixth, the lightweight men's pair clocked in at 6:52.32 as Kyle James (Princeton, N.J.) and Jack Gleim (West Windsor, N.J.) finished their first international regatta. Switzerland, Greece and Turkey took home the medals.
In addition to the under 23 medal races, four senior crews raced for spots in Saturday's finals during semifinals Thursday afternoon.
Finishing just 0.12 seconds behind the British crew, Lou Lombardi (Huntingdon, Pa.), Tom Peszek (Farmington Hills, Mich) and Yohann Rigogne (Besançon, France ) advanced to the final of the men's pair with coxswain in a time of 6:54.70.
Lombardi, a first-time senior national team member, was eager for the opportunity to compete in the final.
"We're excited to have the opportunity to race for a medal on Saturday," said Lombardi. "Tom and Yohann are great oarsmen and teammates. I have learned so much coxing these two men. It's time to dial in the communication, nail the technique and go fast."
Peter Gibson (Belmont, Mass.) and Andrew Weiland (Upper Arlington, Ohio) will now prepare for Saturday's final after clocking in at 6:33.19 for a third-place finish out of the semifinals.
In what was the best birthday gift she could give to herself, Mary Jones (Hunstville, Ala.) qualified for the final of the lightweight women's single sculls. Finishing second in 7:39.29, Jones will join the men's pair with coxswain and lightweight men's pair, as well as the women's four and lightweight women's quadruple sculls which previously advanced, in Saturday's finals.
Lightweight men's single sculler Colin Ethridge (Laytonsville, Md.) will race in the B final on Saturday morning after finishing fifth in his semifinal.
Before the under 23 and senior races commenced, the junior women's quadruple sculls gave the U.S. team a jolt of early energy by advancing to the semifinals through a dog-fight of a repechage.
Clearing the Canadian crew by 0.02 seconds for second place, the quad progressed in a time of 6:47.94 and will compete in the semifinals on Saturday afternoon.
After the junior repechages, 13 U.S. under 23 crews raced in placement finals.
Finishing out a long racing season, Ben Davison (Inverness,Fla.) won the B final in a time of 6:59.14 to finish seventh overall.
Finishing 10th overall, lightweight women's single sculler Emma Betuel (East Hampton, N.Y.) finished her final in a time of 7:56.92 before hot-seating into the lightweight quadruple sculls, where she stroked the crew to an eighth-place finish overall in a time of 6:46.22.
The lightweight men's four crossed the line second in the B final with a time of 6:08.49 for eighth place overall, while the men's eight finished fourth in the B final for 10th place.
Racing in the C finals for overall places 13-18, the lightweight men's double sculls finished 13th, the lightweight men's quadruple sculls finished 14th, the men's double sculls and lightweight women's double sculls finished 15th, the men's quadruple sculls finished 16th and the lightweight men's single sculls finished 18th.