US men's four races to a fifth place A final finish but is now back for selection
Over the last few days, the US crews that traveled to compete at World Cup II have been checking back into their training sites and dialing in on what is left of the selection period and what training needs to be done with the 2019 World Rowing Championship coming up fast.
With the US senior team deadline to select the camp crews a little more than four weeks of, and two more national team trials on the calendar, the crews that will be tasked with qualifying boats for the 2020 Olympics are in the final push.
Left on the calendar besides the team boat naming date are two important trials - July 7-9 for non-camp crews for the juniors, U23, Para, and eight senior boat classes, including six remaining senior lightweight crews, and the men's senior double and quad. That will be followed by the Aug. 5-7 trial for the men's pair (and possibly a second men's single trial).
Which all means that the results from the second World Cup, contested in Poznan, Poland last weekend, will ultimately play into who is chosen for the team crews, including the men's and women's eights and fours, the women's quad, and the para four.
And, for crews that have already earned their places on the national team, including the lightweight men's and women's doubles, and the women's double and single, the second World Cup results give them a gauge on which to base the remaining weeks of training.
Gevvie Stone and Cicley Madden on the podium with silver medals
Of those crews, three made the A final, including the women's lightweight double, women's single and the women's double with Gevvie Stone and Cicely Madden, that brought home a silver medal.
"We came into the regatta with no expectations, as it was our first international regatta in the double, and Cicely's first on the senior team," said Stone who is back in Boston and training again. "We're psyched to come away with a medal, and to be in contention with the top crews. We're just letting it sink in and enjoying it. We're back in Boston and excited to put in some more work."
In the women's single, Kara Kohler finished just one spot out of the medals behind New Zealand's Emma Twigg, and Austria's Magdalena Lobnig. Kohler was just a hair back in fourth from Carling Zeeman of Canada.
"I think I am slowly, but surely, improving in the single," Kohler said. "There are many pieces of my performance at World Cup II that have left me very hopeful about my progress, and other pieces that I am kicking myself for, but know I can improve on. I will need to step up my game over the next two months before the World Championships in order to be ready for the fierce competition that awaits," she said.
Kara Kohler raced close to a medal finish and is now focused on the World Championships
In most events, with maybe the exception of the women's eight, a second US silver medal would be considered a huge success. But the eight is the defending world and Olympic champion and after having a tough first 500 meters, the eight could not recover enough in time to catch winner Australia after overtaking the third place British in the second half of the race.
"We didn't have our best row, but we fought all the way down and I'm so honored to have teammates with the kind of trust it takes to execute a hard fight from behind," said coxswain Katelin Guregian, who said the competition for medals among the women across the international field has gotten harder following the drive for gender equity in the Olympics.
"I'm also excited by the level of competition across all women's boat classes right now," Guregian said. "Since introducing gender equity in our sport, we've had increased subscription and depth in the women's eight, and I'm thrilled to be part of building momentum in our sport."
Of all the crews that raced in the finals in Poland, the para mixed four with coxswain had the highest finish, taking gold from the seven-boat field.
The third women's crew to medal - Olympians Megan Kalmoe and Tracy Eisser - entered the event with the opportunity to earn their spot to the 2019 national team based on their win in the March NSR.
Megan Kalmoe and Tracy Eisser
Their bronze medal finish gives them the right to choose or decline the women's pair for the World Championships. They have until the end of the week to declare their intentions. If they choose to accept, there will be no need for that boat class to be included in the August trial.
However, Michael Knippen, who won the men's single trial this spring, and had already secured a spot on the World Championship roster, was in the US men's quad that finished eighth at World Cup II.
That crew is scheduled to race in the quad trial in July. Should they win, Knippen can choose to race both the single and the quad, or decline the single. That would set up the August redo of the men's single trial.
Among the crews that will be named by the July 28th team boat deadline, the results were mixed, but are pointing in a favorable direction for both the US, and for the women's international field overall, according to US High Performance Director, Matt Imes.
Three of the four crews that raced in the US men's and women's fours reached the final. The two women's crews finished fourth and fifth. One men's crew finished fifth in the A final. The second finished fifth in the B final.
Of the two women's pairs, one took bronze and the other won the B final. "It was a really good experience," Imes said. "The goal was to be able to get into the A final, and several did, while some of those boats that didn't make the A final, won the B final. It was good racing and just a great experience.
"I think what a lot of those boats experienced in the A final is really good preparation for the World Championships," Imes said.
"I'm sure a lot of those boats would have liked to be one or two places higher, but the best way to learn that is to go through the experience. As you get into the Olympic qualification year, you get a serious appreciation for just how hard it is to get into an A final."
Both women's fours reached the final in Poznan
Imes also commented on the increase in the competitive level among the women's field, particularly in the pair and four events. The women's four was made an Olympic event following the Rio Olympics in the effort to achieve gender equality in the overall Olympic program.
Imes said the times and the level of competition last weekend reflect what those changes mean to countries that do not currently have the depth to develop a women's eight. "If you look at the program as it changes, countries are going to put their resources where they feel that they are going to get the best return.
"Developing an eight can be difficult for some countries, where developing a four or a pair can come together fairly quickly, especially if you have two or three really good athletes. So, it will be interesting to see. When you see the times of the women's pairs and fours, and their performances, those two events will continually get better and better," he said.
This was the second 2019 World Cup event that had US women racing. But It was the first for the men's crews, and for men's head coach Mike Teti, the weekend was a success for several reasons.
"What we learned," said Teti, "was it looks like the Germans have a good eight, it looks like the Aussies have a good four, and the pair looks like a loaded event. I thought our guys did OK. We put together a couple of competitive fours. There was no sort of selection for it; it was based on who could go."
Teti said that of most the men training at the Oakland Training Center are working full time, and that after a weekend of fours training on Lake Natoma immediately following the IRA Championship last month, they picked the two crews.
"These are the guys that could go, and I thought they had three and a half good races. In the heat, I thought both boats were good," Teti said.
"I was surprised that they were that close. And then I think they both had solid reps. The (Austin Hack stroked crew) rowed a really smart race in the semi, and they had a really good piece in the final, up until about 700 to go," Teti said.
"So, we know that we have are some really good boats, and we know that we have to get better," he said. Teti said both crews are back and that the entire group is again in selection mode.
"The goal for the World Cup was three-fold," Teti said. "We wanted to get these guys a race and gain some experience, I wanted to stay back here and sort things out some more with the eight because we just got a couple of the college kids in and I wanted to be there for that to see how they blend in. And the last thing was we wanted to see was what the rest of the field looked like.
"The really good thing about racing the straight fours, was that, other than the Dutch, everybody was there. There were 20 fours, and we believe at least two were among the best fours, so it was good."
Para mixed four won gold