The USA JW4+ -- getting Sunday off to a golden, and WBT-beating, start.
More bonus coverage from the U19/U23 World Championships: hear from the U19 champs we caught up with after racing ended in Varese.
You can read more-if you missed it-about the wins by both the US Women's Eight and Coxed Four in last Sunday's racing report.
Nora Goodwillie - Stroke, U19 Women's Eight
[Ed. note: Goodwillie stroked the US JW8+ to a win in 2021 as well, and was also the stroke of the 2022 YNats Champion W8+ from the Chicago Rowing Foundation.]
row2k - How did you handle the pressure of being the favorite, and the returning stroke from last year's gold-medal U19 Eight? Was there a point in the race where you knew you had it won?
Goodwillie - Coming into this race, we really tried to just focus on this race, and not on previous years' races or our success last year. I think there was also an extra bit of pressure that came after the U23 8+ won, just because we wanted to perform similarly.
I think all the pressure that we had was channeled into excitement: we knew we were fast, we just had to execute the piece that we always had. We were confident that if we were in our rhythm we would win.
Frankly, having that mentality for any race, even if you're not the favorite, is a good thing to have. With that, once we got ahead and were inching closer and closer to the other crews' bow balls (probably around 700 in), we knew we had the race, if we just stayed internal and stuck with the rhythm we had started with. I am so proud of everything we have accomplished as a crew, and nothing is better than setting a new world record.
row2k - Was there a 'secret ingredient' to this crew's speed, both in the heat and in setting the WBT in the final?
Goodwillie - I think from the beginning, we have been very close as a boat, which also was a key component to our overall speed. Having the amount of trust and confidence that we all had for one another makes the mental part of racing and pulling hard easier.
Not only am I grateful for all the amazing people in the boat, but I am so grateful for our coach, Mike Wallin. Mike was also a facilitator of the close nature we had within the boat--always encouraging us to spread the USA pride and do boat bonding.
Francie McKenzie - Coxswain, U19 Women's Eight
row2k - Can you tell us a bit about the way this crew boat came together over the course of the summer?
McKenzie - The crew came together about three weeks into selection camp at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, CA. From the minute the boat was selected, all of us got really close and bonded over the common goal of a gold medal at Worlds.
We had a few bumps in the road with adversities and health setbacks, but we made the most of the little time we had together. Everyday, all the girls in the boat put in 100% and I think this dedication was the main reason for our success.
row2k - Can you talk a bit about how this crew raced and responded to your calls out on the course? Was there a point where you knew you had the race in hand?
McKenzie - During both our heat and our final, we executed the race just as we had planned to. With this crew, we really wanted to dominate the middle thousand. In the final specifically, we knew we had a good start and even though we didn't get a chance to showcase our sprint during our heat, I had the trust in my crew that we could have the strong finish in the final that we'd had in practices.
Through the first 500, I was calling out world record pace numbers and told the crew that it was now time to hold and command for the middle part of the piece. If we were able to control that middle thousand, I knew we would be hard to beat.
We continued to take seats and coming through that last 500, I was confident that this boat was going to get gold. At the last 400, I made the call for the sprint--while also reiterating that we were on pace for a record in the JW8+.
As Nora brought the rate up, splits dropped and intensity sky rocketed. I called bow ball on Great Britain around the 250, and from then on the boat soared. I remember making a call in the last 10 strokes of the piece that we were world champions. It was definitely a moment I will never forget.
Ella Casano - Coxswain, U19 Women's Coxed Four
row2k - Let's start with the World Best Time(s!)--your crew set a new one in both the preliminary race and again in the final. What was that like, and was that something the crew was aiming for?
Casano - Even just being named to one of the boats that represents the US at Worlds is an incredible honor to have, and being able to win gold and set a new world record with this boat just makes the whole experience even more special. The result really was a culmination of all of the work we've put in together as a boat, and also of the determination we felt going into the race: we wanted that hard work to pay off in the sense that, yes, we did want to medal, but ultimately, we wanted to have the best row possible, one that displayed our fullest potential.
row2k - What was the key for your crew this summer, when it came to making changes and getting faster?
Casano - One of the biggest things that we learned as a boat was how to pinpoint a change that we wanted to make, or a focus that we wanted to bring into the boat, and then commit to that change or focus together, and execute it the next chance we got.
Whether it was a technical focus, or a point in the race that we wanted to make more aggressive, or more controlled, we took those things and ultimately executed them in our final, making our race as effective as it could have been, and ultimately fulfilling our potential as a boat in that race.
It was an experience that I will never forget, with a boat of people that I will never forget, and I'm so grateful to have had this opportunity.
Ella Wheeler - Bow, U19 Women's Coxed Four
row2k - Can you talk a bit about the experience, and how you and the rest of the crew handled the pressure?
Wheeler - It was really exciting to set a WBT and place first. We all worked really hard this summer and seeing that work pay off is really incredible. I had such a fun time racing and while it was stressful we had trust in our training and especially trust in each other which helped us work together to win the final.
row2k - What was the key to the boat's success, for you?
Wheeler - I think that for us staying internal and focusing on our race plan, and not on the boats around us, helped us feel more in control during both races.
Thanks for following along with row2k's coverage of the Varese U19/U23 Worlds -- all of which can be found here if you missed any of the highlights.
The Two Golden Ella's - Casano, left in coxswain's seat, and Wheeler in bow.