Ultimately, the USA Junior Men's sweep team could not meet all expectations as all 3 USA junior men's crews raced in the B-Finals, guaranteeing that the US will not win a medal in a men's event at this championship. Despite this, there was no shortage of fight in the US boys during the lower finals on Saturday morning.
The Petite Final of the JM4+ pitted muscle against muscle as the US crew and Australia duked it out gunnel to gunnel well ahead of the pack. The US led by half a second at the 500 meter mark, before spotting the Aussies a deck length lead over the middle 1000 meters, with both crews trying and failing to put the other crew away. Going into the last 500 meters, the USA crew blinked, and that was all the Aussies needed; driving hard into the last 300 meters, the Aussies, rowing slightly longer than the Americans, hammered the race home to win by one length. Slovenia and Greece rounded out the field.
For the US JM2+, their petite was a dual meet with Yugoslavia. The US put in a brave race, blowing out of the gates and leading the race to the 1500 before the pace of the race caught up with them. Simply out of gas, the US could put up no resistance as the Yugoslavs passed them. Sadly, this result put the US in 8th, and last place overall.
In looking at the times from yesterday's Semis, the USA JM8+ had a valid argument that they belonged in the final; in finishing fourth in a semifinal won by the Germans, the US crossed the line in a time that would have won the other semifinal. But, the luck of the draw is the luck of the draw, and so the US set out for a bit of redemption in the B-Final today.
In the Petite, the crew from Spain blasted out of the blocks, leading the US to the first marker. Striding patiently, the US worked themselves into the lead by the 1000 meter mark, but the Spanish crew hung tough, not letting the US get out to more than a deck as both crews crossed the 1,500 meter mark nearly level. Time for a bit of guts, and the US crew responded, sprinting to the win and 7th place overall ahead of a quick-closing Czech crew and the surprising Spanish.
"This is the best boat I've been in," said US five seat Sam Cates, a three-time US Jr. National team member. "We were definitely faster than last year. We had the best possible preparation. [The Semi and Final] were the closest two races I've ever seen."
Overall, 7th place in the 8+ and 8th places in the 4+ and 2+ is not tragic, but the nagging feeling remains that something, somewhere could have gone differently for the US.