OAK RIDGE, Tenn. - Coming off the starting block, Elizabeth Sharis was doing what she likes to do when racing her single, row high and take a lead.
The first few strokes went according to plan, but before the Y Quad Cities teen had passed the 100-meter mark on the course - the point in which a race would not be stopped if something happened to any individual boat - Sharis hooked her right oar around a buoy and flipped her boat, spilling into the water.
"I'm not sure what happened," Sharis said. "Luckily the flip was in the first hundred meters. It took me a while to get back in. I was just kind of confused and obviously stressed after I flipped."
After climbing back into her boat, Sharis scooped what water she could out of her now sloshing boat, went back to the line, took a clean start and jumped into a healthy lead.
She was eventually passed by both Alex Zadravec of the GMS Rowing Center, and then Kendall Brewer of the Texas Rowing Center, but managed to hold on to finish third and advance to tomorrow's final in the women's youth single sculls at the 2012 USRowing Youth National Championships on Melton Hill Lake in Oak Ridge, Tenn.
She was met at the recovery dock by her father, Peter, a former U.S. national team rower and 1992 Olympian, who helped her out of her single and watched as she raced to the launch dock and run to an awaiting double, and then sprinted back to the starting line, from which she would advance to a second final.
"That was really stressful," Sharis said. "We got there just as the referees were calling the boats into the starting positions. But I'm happy that I'm in two finals tomorrow."
It was a hectic but fitting start to the semifinals of a regatta that features the best junior and scholastic rowers in the country.
After two days of racing and with all semifinals completed, the 361 crews that came to Melton Hill Lake in the hopes of taking home one of the 18 national championship trophies in contention had been narrowed to 108.
From early morning right through to the early afternoon, crews battled through 49 repechage, or second chance races, to make up for missed heat performances and advance into the remaining slots available for the semifinals.
Those crews that advanced directly from the heats were able to rest and stay out of the building heat. By the time semifinal racing began, the cool temperatures of the week were replaced by building heat and humidity.
Crews raced through to early evening and when it was completed, the fastest boats were advanced. Tomorrow's racing will feature defending champions and potential upstarts, all hoping to claim a title.
As it always is, the fastest races will come from the big boat events, the women's and men's youth fours, quadruple sculls and eights.
One of the faster, closest races in those categories came in the first semifinal of the men's youth quad. Sammamish Rowing Association won the race in 6:34.862 and was followed by Vashon Island Rowing Club in 6:35.384, Saugatuck Rowing Club in 6:35.730 and Malvern Prep in 6:36.066.
In the lightweight women's youth eight, advancing to the final was Community Rowing Inc., Los Gatos Rowing Club, Capital Crew, Oakland Strokes, Wayland- Weston Crew, and Pelham Community Association.
In the lightweight men's youth eight, defending national champion, Marin Rowing Association clocked the fastest time to advance in 6:13.211. St. Joseph's Preparatory School had the second fastest time, taking the second semifinal in 6:14.956.
Sarasota Crew, OKC Riversport, Long Beach Junior Crew, and Miami Rowing and Watersports Center will join them in the final.
"After losing in a very close race at sectional that boat has worked on turning things around," said Sandy Armstrong, director of Marin Rowing. "The boat was changed within the restrictions and was opened up to make it faster. Some of our novice that were lightweights were moved into the boat and some of them worked very hard to stay in the boat," she said.
"Even though they struggled a bit in the heat, they have gotten faster each race this weekend and had a much better row today. As the director, I am super proud of them. Many of them were novice in the lightweight eight that won last year."
The women's youth eight final was a preview of what is in store for the final tomorrow with Oakland Strokes beating defending champion Marin. The Marin women finished second followed by Green Lake Crew in third.
Coming out of the second semifinal was Cincinnati, Saratoga Rowing Association and Community Rowing.
In the final event of the day, the men's youth eight, Marin was again the defending champion and set themselves up for a run for a repeat, posting the best time of the two semifinals with a 6:02.979. Mt. Baker, Mercer Juniors, Sarasota Crew, Cincinnati, and Everett Rowing Association will join them in the final. "I think today we had a very good race. Marin is definitely a fast crew that put up a good battle," said Oakland Strokes Coach Derek Byrnes. "All together the women's field is tight. It's going to be a tough race and an even tougher race to watch from the sidelines."
Racing resumes tomorrow morning at 8 A.M.
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