Over two – oops, make that three – days earlier this week, six crews booked their spots on the 2014 US Junior National Team, which will race at the Junior Worlds in Hamburg Germany August 6-10. row2k caught up with the winners after the racing; from a pair that has rowed together since middle school, a double that clicked on their first row two weeks ago, and a sister pair that live in adjacent rooms, there is a lot of good rowing chemistry on the team already. The "camp" boats will be named in the next several days; good luck to all the athletes still in the mix, and good luck to everyone headed to Germany, see you there.
Junior Men's Pair
In a very rare occurrence for US junior crews, the winning pair of Allen Reitz and Luke Khoury have rowed together for five years already, starting way back in eight grade when they both attended a rowing camp.
"We did a rowing camp in Long Beach, and I remember this distinctly," Khoury said after the race. "The first day the coach said alright, you and you row together, and Allen whispered to one of his friends who was there and said 'Damn, I got the weird kid.' And it all started from there. We were little chubby 8th graders, and we stuck with it."
The duo's birthdays are two days apart and their houses about three minutes apart; "I live about a three minute drive from him, so I pretty much live on his couch," Reitz said.
The duo most recently raced together in the Long Beach junior eight that won Youth Nationals just a few weeks ago. "Every year the program just kept getting better and better, and then we came out with a bang this year." Reitz said. "The last race I ever had with Long Beach was winning a National Championship in the Men's 8."
Asked if that win factored into their confidence going into trials, Khoury points more to their years rowing together culminating in what is a fairly tidy pair at this point.
"Not really as much that win, but more that we're kind of riding off of a very long friendship together," Reitz said. "This guy has been my best friend since we were 12 or 13 in 8th grade when we started rowing and we kind of wound up in the boat together. We've both done the selection camp system before, and while I did have just a great experience both times I've done that, I feel there is a slight disadvantage to some of our European competitors where there's just not that much time after boats have been selected to kind of blend into a boat, where some of those other countries over in Europe have been training since winter and have had their boats selected for quite a while. That being said, since I've been rowing with Luke for five years I think there's a little boat chemistry that you can't really train for, it just kind of has to happen by years of rowing together. I think we can really pull from that when we race, and it's going to hopefully give us a little extra push when we get to Germany."
"Every practice we keep getting better," Khoury said. "We keep making these small adjustments and moving the feet forward, lowering the oarlock, doing this, changing the pitch, and every time it just keeps getting a little better, a little better, a little better, and by the end it's just going to have to be an extension of our bodies. If we want to do what we think and we really believe that we can do in Germany, it's going to have to be something out of this world. There's going to have to be just a little more than just the rowing in the boat. It's going to be the friendship; it's going to be the friendship that we've had for so long. That's one of the things that you can't really play out. If you don't know somebody as well, it's just hard going into that last 500 knowing like is this guy going to do it? I'm sure he's done it on the erg, he's done it at camp, he's made this boat, but when you're with this guy and you've known him for five years and you know him really well - you know about him than he knows about him - it just makes a big difference. Going into that, when you know when it's getting real tough you know exactly what they're thinking, they know exactly what you're thinking and you just keep going. I think that's what helps us out a lot, it's the chemistry."
Jr Men's Single
The US already had one sculler doubling up in international regattas in Andrew Campbell, who will be racing in the light single in both the U23 and senior Worlds, and this week he was joined in a similar quest by Ben Davison, who will race in both the U23 and Junior heavy single. Davison handled both trials pretty nicely, winning the second final in the junior trials by over 15 seconds, but after spending the last year and a half rowing the single almost exclusively, he is still looking for a bit more speed in the boat this summer.
"At the moment I haven't seen the same kind of speed that I have seen previously, which is not worrying me because people peak and people sort of a plateau out, and I'm looking to peak at U23 Worlds and then ultimately Junior Worlds also," he said. "So it's not a great worry but I am aware that it hasn't been as fast as it has been.
"The U23s is going to be a great experience to race such high level guys, so it'll be a good chance to test out the race plan and some good prep for the Juniors," he said "But I'm still going to go and give it my best shot, and it'll be a good test and experience for the Juniors."
Davison started rowing in middle school despite a strong preference for soccer and track, falling into the sport after his brother started rowing – and didn't like it much.
"I used to play soccer and ran track, then my brother started rowing when he was a freshman in high school," Davison recalls. "So I started with the middle school program, and didn't really enjoy it initially. It wasn't as enjoyable as soccer; it wasn't the same kind of glory. I didn't really see the enjoyment in it; I couldn't understand why people choose this for their sport. It took me about two years, I was on and off.
"Then there was one race I went to when one of the guys from the double decided he didn't want to race the double that day, and my Dad spoke up and said 'Ben will do it,' so I reluctantly did the double. We beat one boat, and that was just enough. I was very competitive so that was enough and I started training and really enjoyed the training. That really sparked it. The opportunity to go away and train and be able to work hard, and then ultimately come back and beat the other boats that had beaten us before, and it was just a great experience and it changed my perspective on rowing."
Junior Women's Single
Elizabeth Sharis has been on two junior teams in the quad, in which she won silver both times – but her first time down the course on Mercer Lake was in the single, when she raced the trials at the age of 14. She still pulled from that experience when she raced the course this year.
"When I reach the 750 point into the race I kind of get flashbacks of my first race here a few years ago, the second final where I took this big 20, but now it's just a little different," she said. "I can look back on that as a really good learning experience. It was really good to do that when I was younger, but now it's a totally different thing."
"When I was 14 I would say I didn't have anything to lose, so it was more like oh this is a great experience," she said. "If I win that's great, but if I don't then I'm really going to be able to learn from this. Now that I'm looking back I think it was really great that I did that. I was really able to get some good racing in and really see what it took to see who wins the single."
Sharis doesn't really express a preference for the single over the team boats, but is looking forward to a different challenge this year.
"They are totally different things," she said; "one is all teamwork, and one is by yourself. This year I've had to mentally prepare completely differently. I've had two great experiences last two years in the quad, and this year is just something new so I'm looking forward to it. "
For the second final, Sharis rowed the course alone after the only other entry withdrew; instead of coasting it, she burned out a full pull.
"I feel like today I was able to see a good baseline, to assess when I'm by myself what do I need to work on," she said "Maybe it would be different if there were people next to me but it's good to see just what I can do. I obviously have some things to work on that I hope to improve on in the next few weeks while moving up to Germany, but I think it's going pretty well."
Junior Men's Double
With Daniel Holod hailing from Minnesota, and Galen Bernick coming from Arizona, you probably couldn't have a more unlikely double come together, but when they got in a boat together, it clicked immediately.
"Twenty-three of us went up to selection camp for the quad, and when the quad was named and the remainders either went home, or stayed and seat raced for doubles," Bernick said. "So we got in the boat and it just worked, it just clicked."
"Our first row was actually the first seat race," Holod said. "So high stakes, and we went into it and we just felt really smooth, we felt the connection right away, and we could just tell that it was going to be a good boat."
That was only a couple weeks ago, and the crew has been working to fine-tune the spark since then.
"We've focused more on connection and flow since then," Holod said. "We know we have good power, so we just focus on flow and connection and we've just really been picking it up. We know we have a lot more to work on but we know we can do it if we train hard."
"There's definitely room to grow, but we definitely started out strong," Bernick added.
But the duo didn't come into selection cold – they had raced each other in the single earlier in the year, trading pieces.
"He beat me," Holod said.
"At Youth Nationals," Bernick followed.
"I beat him at trials," Holod said.
"He did beat me at trials," Bernick followed.
The even tally suits the crew nicely.
"That's the thing I really like about the boat, there's no one who's really in charge," Holod said. "We both make the calls."
"It's a level playing field, with a lot of give and take," Bernick said.
Junior Women's Pair
The USRowing Junior National Team Selection Camp entry of Meghan Galloway and Liliane Lindsay swept each of the junior women's pair races Monday and Tuesday to earn a berth to the U.S. team.
"We definitely had a cleaner race in the morning," said Lindsay. "The race in the afternoon was rocky at the start, but we got through it and did what we needed to do to keep our composure. After the 750 (meter mark), the water got calmer and it got better and better as we went on."
Galloway and Lindsay, who were members of the junior women's eight that finished at the 2013 World Rowing Junior Championships, posted a time of 7:45.28 in Tuesday's second final. San Diego Rowing Club's Marissa Gibson and Mariko Kelly crossed second in 8:05.10, followed by Princeton National Rowing Association/Mercer's Kathleen Hickey and Rena White in an 8:07.61.
"Coming off of a less-than stellar result at worlds last year, I think we're both eager to get back out there and show what we can do," said Lindsay.
Junior Women's Double
In the best-of-three finals format, it fell to the crews in the junior women's double to make everyone extend their hotel stays and come back for one last winner-take-all Final Three on Wednesday morning. Earlier in the week, Adrienne Bielawski and Caroline Sharis had the fastest time in the time trials, and then won Final One by a long second, but subsequently the sister double of Mary and Claire Campbell won Final Two, bringing everyone back for an early morning Final Three.
After a tight first third of the final race, the Campbell sisters broke away and then kept going, eventually finished with a 7 second margin to earn a spot on the US team.
The Campbell double had won Youth Nationals a couple weeks earlier, and came into the trials with a defensive mindset that Mary Campbell thought hurt them in the first couple races.
"Coming off Nationals, we're on this Nationals high, and we had something we felt like to lose, so in the first two races we were so concerned about losing," she said. "We had to change our mindset so that instead of racing to not lose, if that makes sense, we race to win. So we switched that mentality, and at least for me I know that helped me; and then Claire follows me so it kind of works together."
"Then it was just like row to row, to just have a good time," Claire agreed. "Just row for fun. And those girls are fast, that was a fast race. This was definitely our hardest race we've ever done."
"I knew they would come out fast, because they are good girls, and I've raced the stroke seat before in the single," Mary said. "So I thought that if literally we just do not give an inch at any point, then it'll work out."
The crew took away some good indicators from the long week of racing.
"Every race we get faster, I feel like," Claire said.
"We row into ourselves," Mary said; "even through the regatta you can see it. We do this at practice too. Our first threshold set, it's almost awful. Our coach is like, what is wrong with you girls? Then by the last one, we're back on our game, and we always finish on a good note. I think that kind of feeds into our rowing in the grand scheme and the individual regatta."
Rowing in a two-person boat with a sibling could create some difficulties, something that is not lost on the Campbell sisters, but they seem to work well together.
"We rowed at Nationals in a quad with four other girls, and that was an interesting experience because we were the middle pair, so it was kind of like we were rowing a double within a quad," Mary said. "Then it's kind of difficult because we are sisters, so you can worry about the fact that we go to school together, we drive to crew together, our rooms are next door, we share a bathroom. So we were worried about being too much together, but when we got in the double it just kind of worked."