With Speed Order I being only the opening of the selection process of 2017, and the first racing event of the 2020 Olympic quadrennial, it might seem slightly far sighted to talk about goal setting toward Tokyo.
Molly Bruggeman doesn't see it that way.
"I don’t think it's too soon to start thinking of the next Olympics," Bruggeman said after finishing second with 2016 Olympian Grace Latz in the women's pair time trial this morning on Mercer Lake, in West Windsor, N.J. "That's what is in the back of everyone's head. That's why we're here. That's why we're training."
Bruggeman won silver in the senior women's four at last summer's mega-world championships in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, and is rowing as one of the women's national team Princeton Training Center athletes. She said this first event was a welcome change from just training, especially after sitting out the fall nursing a rib injury.
"It feels pretty darn good to be racing," she said. "I was out last fall with some nagging rib injuries. I started training again in January and it's great to be pain free and be able to put the most into my training. It's good to be back in Princeton."
Bruggeman is one of some 120 athletes racing in the six events in pairs and singles which is being run as part of the first step in the process toward making the 2017 World Rowing Championships, scheduled for Sept. 24 to Oct. 1 in Sarasota, Fla.
As is standard for the start of any new Olympic cycle, there are as many new faces as familiar ones on the water with some past Olympic cycle athletes taking time away from full-on training or training on their own after participating in what can be a grueling prior four years. In the women's training center alone, at least eight of the athletes are new to the group.
Several Rio Olympians who are, or had been, training on their own rowed the single, including Felice Mueller and Lauren Schmetterling, who finished second and third respectively in the women's single behind Potomac Boat Club's Michalina Fili.
According to USRowing High Performance Director Matt Imes, the change in the event name was made to move back the more formal selection events and accommodate a later start to the 2017 World Rowing Championships, scheduled for Sept. 24 to Oct. 1 in Sarasota, Fla. World championships normally begin in late August.
"These events were held as a chance for the winners to go to a World Cup in the NSR process." Imes said. "With a later World Championship, this serves as an opportunity for athletes to assess themselves against the field early in the season while we were able to move the selection process to later in the year. We'll look at how this goes and see what sets up the athletes for success in upcoming procedures in the subsequent years," he said.
This is the first of two planned spring selection events. Speed Order II is scheduled for May 20-23 on Mercer Lake.
"Speed Order I and II are great opportunities for all our domestic athletes to get their initial chance to gauge their progress on the pathway to making the national team," Imes said. "Whether they are returning athletes or new to the process, these first events will be good to see where they are and where they need to be."
For Anders Weiss, who rowed in the Rio men's pair, just being on the water was satisfying. "It was good to be back on the water racing. It went pretty well. Despite some steering issues, it was a good solid piece."
Weiss rowed with relatively new senior team aspirant Greg Davis. They finished third behind the more experienced crew of 2012 Olympian Tom Pezsek and his 2016 senior world's partner, Yohann Rigogne.
"We understand that Pezsek and Yohann are an incredibly fast pair," Weiss said. "As of right now, we spent a lot of the winter focusing on fitness and focusing on the erg, which I think will pay off later in the year. But right now, we're transitioning to getting back on the water now that we are incredibly fit."
Racing in the event will resume with heats in all six events and will conclude with finals Friday.
Go here for complete time trials results.