Tom Graves in his brother's boat - the second one.
By just about noon Wednesday, when all the finals of the Senior Trials are wrapped up on Mercer Lake, nineteen crews that will represent the U.S. at the 2017 World Rowing Championships will have had their names inked onto the roster.
Following three days of racing, including time trials, heats, reps and semifinals for some, the blank slate of pre-selection and trials will be mostly filled in. All that will remain to be announced is the USRowing camp boat selections, which are scheduled to be completed by Aug. 28th.
As always, making a national team takes a combination of planning - some long term, and some spur of the moment - good training, timing, a touch of luck, tweaks, and sometimes a bit of overcoming the unexpected. We'll touch on some of those factors with this report, starting with the unexpected.
Band of Graves Brothers
Tom Graves - one of the three rowing Graves brothers (Peter, Tom and John) - was entered to race in the men's single, while John - who had been racing the single this season - races in the double final with Ben Davison. Tom had retired brother Peter's single rigged and ready for a go in the Sunday time trials.
He took it out for a spin on Mercer Lake on Saturday, however, and crushed the bow on a buoy that had broken loose from the course lanes.
"The very first day I was here, 250-meters into my row, I ruined Peter's boat," Tom said. "I hit a buoy marker and destroyed the bow. I had to find a new boat." Enter brother John, who isn't using his single at the moment.
The Graves are all about the same size and weight and Peter and John's shells are similar enough hulls to make an easy transition with just a change in the rigging. Tom got the boat set and advanced into the Wednesday final from the rep and is now looking forward to an uninterrupted race for the national team men's single.
"So, yea, one day at a time," Tom said of his trials adventure. And the name on the hull of brother John's boat? "Rowing Ventures."
Long Term Planning
Kara Kohler has had the women's single in her plans all season. The 2012 Olympic bronze medalist in the women's quad was in the mix for the 2016 camp selection, but was not on the Rio roster when it was announced.
Training at the California Rowing Club, Kohler made her way to the Midwest for the Club Nationals and finished second on Harsha Lake in Bethel, Ohio to 2016 Olympian, Felice Mueller. Both women advanced through the Tuesday semifinals and will race again Wednesday morning.
"That was my goal coming in," Kohler said. "That's really just step one. I Just wanted to secure my spot in the final this morning, so there is a lot more to give." Kohler advanced in first ahead of Stesha Carle, who will also race in the morning final. "I had a good start and just pushed," Kohler said. "Stesha always pushes me to be better, and once I was out there, I held it to the finish line."
The Short Term
Four athletes (three crews) that probably should be sitting on a beach, hiking, or just hanging out somewhere other than a boat yard in West Windsor, New Jersey, after long, hard collegiate seasons, followed by U23 trials, followed by the U23 world in Plovdiv, Bulgaria showed up at trials.
They are Cicely Madden and Elizabeth Sharis, fourth in the U23 double; Emily Kallfelz, bronze in the U23 single; Christine Cavallo, sixth in the U23 quad; and Davison, bronze in the coxed four. (OK, Ben Davison fits into the long-term planners since he committed to rowing the double with John Graves over the winter. But he rowed at Washington in the 1V and then went to Plovdiv and is now in Mercer.)
Row2k caught up with Kallfelz and Cavallo to ask both the obvious and, some might say dumb, question of, 'why?'
Cavallo summed it up like this after a practice row in her borrowed single, in a boat and boat class she has no experience in, and a weight class she had abandoned to row in the open weight double at U23 trials while also competing in the quad selection camp:
"I thought I would be done after U23s but then I started racing."
After some reflection, she explained; " I spent all summer with the mentality that I would switch to open weight, and I was steadily on that track and thinking there was no way I would able to be able to get back down," she said.
"And then I finished my last race in Plovdiv and stepped on a scale and thought, I'm open weight and I'm not going to let anything else distract me. Then I looked down and I was 130 pounds. So, I thought, 'Oh. I can do this,' and that it would be dumb of me to wait a year and two weeks for the same opportunity when I could do baptism by fire."
Cavallo reached the lightweight women's single final Tuesday from the rep.
Just before her, Kallfelz did the same thing in the open weight single, but perhaps from the opposite end of the spectrum.
"This is kind of like, after worlds, I just wanted to see," she said. "I thought, I'm probably somewhere near my peak speed right now, so why not see how I stack up. The elite girls are obviously pretty quick.
"It's been kind of difficult coming off of worlds because I felt like I could really use a break right now. And so, I did end up taking a little bit of time off, which probably impacted my speed a little bit, but I thought it was probably just a good idea to come here and get some race experience, because I could always use some more of that - you know, work on my starts cause they're always slow. It was kind of just like a fun race, just to see where I stack up. But I don't really have too much at stake."
Not much at stake is a good place to be she said. So is being an underdog.
"Underdog. That's kind of been my thing, I mean for a while, that's kind of been my spot," she said. "So, it's kind of nice to be in that situation here. Because, I'm probably not going to win, so it's a nice position to be in. It's not as emotionally stressful as it is having emotional expectations and having people saying you should be winning this, you should be hitting these times. So, it's different and I haven't been in this position in a while so it's strange. But I'm enjoying it."
Hugh McAdam and William Solberg
Craftsbury Sculling Center's Hugh McAdam hasn't had the easiest of times in the lightweight single this spring. After he finished fifth in the third final (17th overall) at World Cup III and got back stateside, he made some changes to his stroke and has been incorporating it in his racing this week.
He finished third in the time trial, second in the heat, and second in the rep to advance into the final, along with William Solberg from Seattle Rowing Center, in a last stroke to line battle that had a bunch of the athletes and the spectators on the dock and in the boat bays at the Caspersen Rowing Center rushing to the water to have a look.
"Those other guys, they were racing it hard," McAdam said. "But I had a good start, got a little bit of a lead on the guys that finished second and third, and just did what I had to do to make sure I got in the final.
"I made some changes to my stroke recently, so getting an extra race under my belt isn't a bad thing," he said.
"It's going to be fast. We got four really good athletes racing tomorrow. It's going to be super competitive."