After two days of watching the older kids race, some of the U19s finally got on the course, as racing started in the most heavily subscribed events: the singles and doubles, of course, have big numbers, but so too does the U19 Men's Pair and even the Men's Quad, with 16 entries, got to join the small boat action Wednesday morning.
The U19s getting to work this morning got more manageable temps to work with--"slightly cooler" was the official-ish word on the World Rowing live blog.
They also became the first folks ever to race for "U19 World Championships" as the name and designation of the Junior World Championships is no longer the way to refer to this age-category, in an age when there is also a U23 event-and a host of other sports calling similar events U-whatever. So, vale JWC: row2k sure had a fun 25 years or so of covering you--and on to U19s.
(Confusingly enough, the U19 events will keep the "J for junior" designation in the event abbreviation, so not everything is new here)
U19 M1x & M2x Skip the Reps
It was a good morning for the three scullers here under the guidance of longtime junior sculling coach Jamie Whalen: Charles Boldt in the single, from Indianapolis Rowing Center, and the Y Quad Cities duo of Nikhil Ramaraju and Tristan Wakefield. Whalen coaches these athletes in collaboration with their home coaches, but he is the guy on the ground here in Varese, carrying the oars and shoes, as it were.
Ramaraju and Wakefield in the JM2x became the first US crew of the morning to earn a qualifying spot, coming in behind the Dutch and well clear of Romania to nab a spot in a Friday Quarterfinal. With Quarters and Semis in this event, skipping the rep--and a full 5 days of 2k-ing, was job well done, for sure.
"I thought it was a good race for us," said bowman Wakefield afterwards. "We started off a little slow but we definitely finished the race strong. We were a little worried at 500 meters in but we gained some lengths back and passed 2 boats around 750 left in the race."
"We learned a lot from the heats and we hope to carry over some of that to the racing on Friday."
Boldt, in the single, followed up by doing the double one better: he won his heat--the only US U19 winner on the day--and did so in dramatic fashion, chased all the way to the line by Eqypt's Marawan Mohamed, who whittled the margin down to just 1/2 a second at the line.
"I got out of the start fast to gain the lead," said Boldt when he was safely back ashore. His biggest lead on Mohamed had been in that first quarter of the race. As for the hot pursuit Boldt survived the rest of the way? "It was just playing defense to keep the Egyptian behind me," he said.
With four to qualify, Boldt did not need the win but, as with the double, his event has Quarters and Semis ahead, and getting a winners lane in that Quarterfinal round will be a huge help to him.
Rep Round-Bound for JW1x, JM4x, JW2x & JM2-
When you are racing your first international race, taking a spin through the reps can be part of a reasonable path--and when you are just a sophomore and really a U16 athlete like US junior single sculler Olivia Petri, then a day where you have just beaten two of your first 5 international opponents with a time that puts you in the mix for that rep, it is not a bad first go at all.
Olivia Petri, USA JW1x
"I learned a lot from today's race," Petri said, after taking 4th behind a trio of 18 year olds from Germany, Switzerland, and Slovenia--all of who came to the line with Junior Worlds experience from last year (and two medals: SUI's Lina Kuehn and GER's Rebekka Falkenberg actually raced each other in the JW4x Final in 2021, with Kuehn taking gold with her Swiss quad, and Falkenberg earning a bronze.)
Yet Petri, the US's U16 champ this past spring, was unfazed:
"I am ready and excited to implement what I learned in tomorrow reps."
The U19 Men's Quad--Ashton Perlroth, Walid Ghamra, Sam Dowd, and Timothy Parsons--put on the best "not quite" race of the morning, missing the advancement mark by just two seconds behind Greek and GB quads that went sub 6 minutes. The US time--6:01--would have won the other heat outright.
"We're pleased with how this morning went," was how Quad coach Brian de Regt summed up the effort and the speed he saw.
"We've seen some promising work in practice, but you never know what you really have until you go out there and throw down. Our plan moving forward is to keep doing the good things we're doing, and stop doing the bad things we're doing."
Reps for both de Regt's quad and Petri will be tomorrow and, joining them will be the U19 Women's Double (Catherine Barry and Hannah Peters) and U19 Men's Pair (Alberto Lasso and Jonas Thieme) who will looking to move on with that second-chance row after coming a bit short in their heats.
On our quick fact sheet for those two crews: the Catherine Barry in the W2x is the younger sister of USA U23 W1x Ella Barry, so it has certainly been convenient for their folks to have a combined U19/U23 Worlds. And the Men's Pair? They have been acclimatizing in Italy ever since we row2k last caught up with them in the Stewards Enclosure at Henley, having opted not to fly all the way back to their home club--Los Gatos--in California. They also raced the the quad at Henley, so it has been a summer of two disciplines for Lasso and Thieme, in addition to the exotic locales.
U23s: Repping All Afternoon
We sure hope the older kids like sleeping in, because that will be the trade-off the U23s get for having to row the rest of their regatta in the afternoons; it is U19s in the AM and U23 after the lunch interval, in the heat and potential thunderstorm window, from here on out.
Today, that afternoon session went without a hitch, even on a day that had been dicey on the long-range forecast, whew. In fact, it was nice enough that the "Alps were out"--with clear skies allowing the mountains to loom in full view of the Lago.
Alps putting in an appearance
The race of the reps was unquestionably the U23 Men's Quad, where the US timed it just perfectly to snatch the final transfer spot from the Aussies:
We caught up with strokeman Isaac Spokes, a high school baseball player who walked on into the sport at Dartmouth once he got to college, after the photo-finish:
"We went into this rep expecting a barn burner, and our competition didn't disappoint," he said. "We hoped to row our own race and stayed within ourselves, and when we found ourselves down at the 1k we recommitted to our rhythm. As good a piece as it was, we know we'll have to build off of it and do it even better tomorrow."
USA BM4x, in a shell named for legendary Philly sculling coachJim Barker
"To advance felt pretty special, as we are very aware that no US U23 quad has placed above dead last since 2011, so we felt some pressure to move past the rep. Luckily we managed to do so, and now we hope to keep performing at the highest level possible."
That best finish since '11 is assured now, but Spokes and company have a shot at the A Final when they race their semi tomorrow.
The Women's Quad locked up their spot in the A Final with today's rep, doing just what they needed to: eliminating New Zealand to take the fourth and final transfer spot.
The quartet--Katelin Gildersleeve, Lauren Benedict, Sophia Calabrese, and Ellen Ulitsky--spoke to row2 via thier Instagram account, @usa_u23_quad:
"We are extremely excited for the opportunity to race in the A final on Friday. Each 2k has helped us learn and grow together, and we know we can achieve so much with the trust we share. On the water, we lock in and do not take anything for granted while off the water it is rare to find us not laughing. The love that creates this strong bond certainly makes the boat go faster. No matter what happens on Friday, we are so thankful for the memories we have made together and know our friendship will last a lifetime."
In all, eight of the eleven US crews in these U23 reps made good on the chance, and the Women's Double set that tone in the first race of the session:
Susan Cook and Simone Vorperian only needed to take third to move on, but they pressed Italy's Josephine Debelle and Matilde Barison all the way to the line, dropping New Zealand's duo into third in the process.
"Simone and I laid down a really solid race that we were proud of," said Cook afterwards. "We made some significant improvements from the heat."
"I think that is the really exciting part about summer racing: we don't get the privilege of rowing in this lineup all year so every race opportunity we get we love and get to take advantage of! That's why we weren't scared when we found out we were going to the reps. It was just one more opportunity to learn more about ourselves as racers and gain more speed."
It was a good day for the scullers here for the Red, White and Blue on the whole: in addition to the two quads and the Cook/Vorperian double, the Light Men's Quad, and Light Men's Double got through the reps--the LM4x to their A Final, and the LM2x to a Thursday Semi.
Men's Sweep Squad Sets A Marker
Let's face it, if you are going to rep, then taking care of that extra race from out in front is the preferred way to get it done, and the US Men's sweep crews did just that today: the Men's Pair, Men's Four with, and Men's Eight all went to the front and took a win in the rep round.
For the Pair, there is still a semi to get through, but the big boats are now set for their A Finals and a shot at the medals.
Stroke man of the eight, Will Leganzowski, sounds like he is having a good time racing with a boatful of teammates after racing as the U23 single sculler last year during his COVID gap year from Brown.
"I think we had a particularly well executed first 1k where we could really attack the race and be super aggressive. It was the second open rate 2k we've done as a crew, so we were actually really grateful to get to race the rep to figure out what kind of crew we are on the race course and continue to build confidence in our rhythm."
"I think today's race was better than yesterday's, and I feel really confident that Saturday's race will be our Magnum Opus as a crew."
After the show the US and GB put on in their heat, Saturday's final should be a burner, especially when you take a look at the times Germany and Romania turned it to get through the other Rep: both were just a touch faster than the USA time, and that means we will get a full slate of fast crews in the A Final.
The only US U23 crews to miss the mark in this round of reps were the Light Women's Double, the Women's Pair and the Men's Double. In that last event, Tucker Thomas and Thomas Foltz--the ACRA M1x collegiate champ--had a qualifying spot in hand through the 1000 but could not keep pace with Uruguay, Croatia, and the Czechs in the second half. In the end the US BM2x was 6th, but in a race where all six boats were within 5 seconds of each other at the line.
And a Quarterfinal...
At the end of a long report, just as he raced at the end of a long day, Isaiah Harrison merits a mention for making good on his go at the QF round, taking second behind Bulgaria's Emil Neykov and getting in front of GB's Callum Dixon, a sculler who made the B Final at the Lucerne World Cup against the over-23s.
For the record, Harrison's second place here to make the semi is one spot better than his 3rd place in the heat. Good trend for the 19 year-old!
On Thursday, the rest of the U19s will race their heats, and then there will be the Reps for the U19 events covered here. In the afternoon, the U23s will have semis in the events that needed them--it will be all Finals starting Friday for the U23s.
The morning racing will be in the books by 5 am or so Eastern, so you can head right to results--listed by event under the Results tab--here on the World Rowing site...or you can look for the Daily Results Summary when we get it and put it up on the row2k results page later in the day. The U23 racing starts (or started!) at 8 am Eastern.
Notes From the Course
- Good Sculling Genes: Slovenia's U23 Lightweight Women's sculler, Ruby Cop, is indeed the daughter of Olympic and World Champ Itzok Cop. The younger Cop finished just off the podium in the Junior Double last year, and is racing here in her first year of U23 status.
- If You're Here for the Bird Pics: Varese has you covered...with swans galore, and we've seen them getting pretty psyched ahead of the racing
- Bambini Power: The stakeboat bambini are having fun and doing good work, hanging off each other in friendship and dislodging stuck stake fingers in big, hardworking teams.
Bambini powers: activate!
- But Sometimes Even the Bambini Can't Help: The NZL BW4x in their rep had to do a floating start when no amount of bambini-hopping could get the finger in their lane to adjust after the previous race.
- Time for some Traffic Map Review? A bunch of races got yellow cards in three of five lanes; seems like a marshaling thing, no?
- Local Flavor, and Cheering: row2k is staying at the same hotel as the Italian junior team, and the quiet (and fast internet) on Tuesday night was interrupted by a huge cheer of "Italia!!! Italia!!!' that boomed through the entire hotel.
- For Whom the Bell Tolls, Early: The church bells at what I think is the Chiesa della Beata Vergine - Calcinate off the port side of the starting line are about 30 seconds ahead of regatta time; the hourly bell chimes always finish in time for the 0 o'clock race to go off.