Pan Am Trials wrapped up on Friday, the first step in a three-stop journey for athletes looking to compete at the 2023 Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile, next October. Next up for the winners and qualified athletes would be the Pan American Qualification Regatta in March--also in Chile--where the USA's final allotment of entries would be determined, based on those results.
Athletes at these Trials raced in either singles or pairs, and the overall results-and some doubling up-will be used to fill the doubles, quads, fours and even a mixed eight event at the Santiago Pan Am Games themselves. Second and third place in the open singles will be the doubles entries, while the top four openweight scullers at this Trials will race as the Quad on both the Men's and Women's sides. For Lightweights, the top two singles become the Light Double, and on the sweep side, the top two pairs will race as a four.
(The Mixed Eight gets drawn out of the eventual group of athletes who qualify themselves in March, assuming there are eight of them--four men and four women--while the coxswain will be selected by a Nomination Committee, as laid out in Section 2.2 of the 2023 Pan Am Selection Procedures.)
Before we get to the winners--who rowed a fine set of races on a condensed schedule while the remains of Hurricane Nicole barreled up the East Coast--we should mention that attendance at Pan Am is complicated again this time around, as it often is.
In a switch from recent Pan Am trials, senior Worlds team candidates were encouraged to trial for the Pan Am Games by USRowing Chief High Performance Officer Josy Verdonkshot and the athlete representatives, with a promise that the dates of the Pan Am Qualifier in March and the Games in October will be worked into the "overall High Performance calendar." You can read the letter here.
In the past, the US has approached Pan Ams differently from year to year, largely dependent on when during the racing season that Pan Ams themselves fall. Sometimes the US has sent very senior athletes from the National Training Centers, and other times more developmental athletes already in the system, while in in other years, senior athletes have skipped Pan Ams altogether to focus on Worlds, qualification, and the impending Olympics of that cycle.
The winners and qualifiers today talked about being excited for the opportunity, while in some cases still being careful to hedge their bets, knowing that they may eventually need to weigh the costs and benefits of a March Pan Am qualification regatta--in San Pedro de la Paz, a coastal town about 300 miles from Santiago, where the Pan Am Games will be based--against where they would like to be positioned for the 2023 Worlds and 2024 Olympics.
Open Singles Finals Select Top 4 for Santiago
Craftsbury's Green Racing Project athletes swept the open singles, with Grace Joyce and then Jacob Plihal winning tight finals to claim the Open Singles spots. Joyce outlasted her former college teammate--and recent Lotman Challenge winner--Lauren O'Connor, by just .44 of a second, while Plihal, the Men's Lotman champion, edged the NYAC's Greg Davis by .62 of a second in the Men's Final.
With the way the selection works, O'Connor and her ARION teammate, third-placed Kristi Wagner, are in line to be the Women's Double-- which would give Tokyo Olympian Wagner her third international partner in as many years--and Savannah Brija, who took fourth, would be the athlete to join those two and Joyce to make up the quad, the crew Brija raced at Worlds this past year.
For the men, Davis and his New York AC teammate in third, Finn Putnam, qualified to form the double, and the race for fourth place earned Casey Fuller a spot on the team, where he will round out the quad.
row2k caught up with Fuller about that race for fourth, and how it felt to make his second US Team (he raced on the World University Games team in 2018):
"I'm not really good at starts, but I had a good one and I was like out in front with the guys that came one, two and three. I was with them for 1500 meters, so I knew I must be doing really well.
"I was in the outside lane, and when I looked to my left, I could see I was up on Kevin Meador. Kevin's always been beating, for the last two years, and actually being in front of him, I though, 'Oh, wow, actually might get past Kevin,' so I was very excited. Then when I finished and I heard the beep, I just looked to my left again and I saw that I got through him, I got fourth.
"I've been trying to make national team again. I made one team, the World University team, in 2018, and we went to Shanghai, China. Ever since then, I wanted to go back and be on the team again. I want to wear the USA uni again, and try to represent our country in the right way."
Strong W1x Showing by Badger Alums Joyce and O'Connor
The top two spots in the W1x went to the former Wisconsin teammates Grace Joyce and Lauren O'Connor. Joyce, the W1x winner, started her year 6th in NSR1's W1x final and took 5th in the W2x at NSR2 before becoming the 'super-spare' at Worlds who hopped into the Women's Quad for the semi and final. Winning here, she said, was "very fun overall."
"I've learned a lot about race execution this week," Joyce said. "Adding the Pan Am Qualifier to the list of international race experience can only help me as I build forward, assuming all logistics work out.
"After competing as the spare single at Worlds and then racing with the women's 4x in Racice, I've been looking forward to the next opportunity to get on the line. This week I was happy to compete one last time before heading into the winter season."
O'Connor, whose breakout win at the Lotman Challenge two weeks ago showed her that "I have that speed in me," as she told row2k at the Gold Cup, continued her hot streak here today, earning the spot in the double with ARION's Wagner:
"It's been a really good month of racing overall," said O'Connor. "I feel really lucky to get to race so many great competitors and doing 2ks in the fall has been a fun experience.
"I'm very excited for the potential for international racing since I haven't had that opportunity before. I think these races have just helped me get back into a good mindset for the spring, knowing that I can be right there with the top scullers who went to Worlds. I'm hoping that the next few months of training will just help add to my speed and help me create a more established race plan for winter speed order and singles trials. Overall a great month!"
Plihal Completes Lotman-Trials Sweep
Jacob Plihal, fresh off his own win at the Lotman Challenge, saw off a strong challenge from a quick-starting Greg Davis, and got the win over the longer distance here by using the whole 2k track to grind out the victory.
"The race was quite intense," Plihal confided afterwards, "and a lot of fun. "Greg got out to an early and strong lead off the start. I took a momentum shift coming through the thousand meter mark, and just kept my head down until the sprint. Luckily I had enough runway to squeeze out the W at the line. It was a really fun race though, being neck and neck with Greg for the last few hundred was a great racing experience."
"I am excited at the opportunity to compete internationally in the men’s single sculls, Plihal said. "I have never earned the right to represent the US in this event, so I am thrilled at the prospect. It will be great experience to row in an international field in the single. And I hope that this race experience will be a valuable step forward in the training and development I need in order reach the goals I have set for myself at the senior level."
Light Singles - Charles Champs Double Down
The light singles went to the two athletes we just saw winning the Charles for the first time: Molly Reckford and Jamie Copus. For Reckford, she also qualified to double up into a familiar combination, since her Olympic and Worlds boatmate Michelle Sechser took second. The Men's Light Double would be Copus--a Team GB sculler with dual citizenship--teaming with Sam Melvin, who finished second today, in what would be Copus' US Team debut.
Reckford, a Tokyo Olympian, made her National Team debut at the 2019 Worlds but missed out on the Pan Am Trials that cycle:
"I only started seriously rowing in 2018, and by the time I realized I was potentially fast enough to attend Pan Am Trials, I had actually already missed them," she said. "I learned about the trials about a week after they happened."
"So Pan Ams is something I wanted to do from before before I got as far as I ended up getting. It's like being able to do a summer of club racing for me: I've always wanted to do it. Pan Am's seems like so much fun: a little less pressure, a little less serious, and enjoying the joy of racing. I'm looking forward to it."
For Reckford, who had tipped in an Instagram story on @womenintheboat, that she was not entirely sure how the racing would go given the traveling she had been doing since winning the Charles, her win was a nice surprise:
"I have never felt so poorly prepared for a race," she admitted afterwards. "I flew in to New Jersey on Monday night, and I had been off the water for a week.
"After the Head of the Charles, I had gone back to base training and then I got back in a boat on Tuesday. It was my first time in a Filippi single, and I practiced in it once. So I said, 'Okay, we're just gonna see what we can do.'
"That first race, I rated around a 30, then yesterday I managed to get my rate up to a 32. Today, thanks to some pressure from my very speedy teammate [Michelle Sechser] in the lane next to me, I got it up to 34-36 but it was definitely an absolute learning experience.
"Each race got better, and each race I was able to find the new gear that I needed. So I am very, very happy with how the racing went, especially considering I was worried about flipping: I took two bad strokes in the time trial and thought, 'Oh my God, this will be terribly embarrassing if I end up going for a swim.'"
The format of this Trials, which as we mentioned pairs the top two light singles into a double, means that Reckford and Sechser already have themselves booked to race with each other again, in a combo that made the Olympic Final, won the Poznan World Cup, and collected--with their silver--the USA's best Olympic event finish at the 2022 Worlds.
"We are both really looking forward to it," said Reckford of the chance to race as a double again. "We like traveling together, and racing together is always so much fun. It also helps us both feel really confident: we as teammates is a good thing."
Women's Pair - Collins & Wanamaker Keep Rolling
The World's bronze-medal-winning combo of Claire Collins and Maddie Wanamaker (pictured at top) won both the time trial and final, continuing to set the standard in the event this year. Collins and Wanamaker, much like the light double of Reckford and Secsher, would very clearly be high-level senior team athletes making Pan Ams part of their pathway.
Joining them to make the Pan Am four would be Daisy Mazzio-Manson and Emily Froelich, who got ahead of the other Princeton Training Center pairs to win that important second spot to make the team.
Getting to race in a familiar combination was helpful, according to Wanamaker, when it came time to race this rare fall 2k Trials:
"We've enjoyed being back with all of our teammates in Princeton since Worlds; being pushed by them everyday. We got to be one of the only partnerships that stayed together, which was helpful for a fall 2k regatta."
"We'll be having more conversations about travel to qualifiers, but hope that more racing together (and with Daisy and Emily) is in our future."
Men's Pair - From 12k to 2k, Distance Doesn't Matter for Carlson & Hedge
Ezra Carlson and Alexander Hedge completed something of a distance trifecta at the Trials: winners--in the US Men's 8--of the 12k Kanal Cup and the 5k Head of the Charles, they took this 2k win in the 2- to round out their fall. When you add in Carlson's single sculling--which also earned him a Head of the Charles title--that makes four wins across three boat classes for him, and he can even row the other side "a bit," as he laughed, when asked if he really was a "multiple threat" when it comes to team selection.
We also asked what it has been like, sweeping and sculling at such a high level, and winning at both, this fall:
"The single is a unique, personal challenge," said Carlson. "It's different from any other boat because you don't have anybody else there with you. It's a great training tool, to be able to reach back and really push yourself in the single, and I really enjoy that but getting into the team boat is really fun, too. I've loved the pair for a long time, but especially since racing it at Worlds in 2019 [with Anders Weiss, eds.] and I've been lucky enough to have some really good pair of partners.
"As we get closer and closer to Paris, people start to be a bit more cemented in their path to which boat they're looking at. I still don't know exactly where I'm going to end up in that group, so this fall it's been nice to feel like I can get in the single, in an eight, in the pair, and I can do well. I feel like I'm strong and competent in all of those roles, and can be versatile and ready to play whatever role I can for the team in the qualifying year, as well as going into the next year, into Paris."
Racing the pair with Hedge was a chance to get back in a boat that served them well last spring, when they both earned spots in the sweep selection camp with their second place finish at NSR 2:
"The past couple weeks, we jumped back in the pair," said Carlson, "trying out a new lineup, with me and stroking Alexander in bow. That is a fun challenge for us, to learn the other's role.
"We had a good time racing. We definitely went out there and were just trying to chase percentages, to find a find a good solid rhythm and see what we could do over 2k.
"We have things that we want to improve on the next time we we get a run down the course, but it's the end of the fall now, so we're just looking at winter training: trying to get back into a solid training block to make sure we can take a step forward from this come back in the spring stronger and faster."
Carson and Hedge would be joined in the Pan Am four by Penn AC's Nicholas Ruggiero and Cooper Hurley, the only other pair to race the Trials after scratches by the other entries.
The winners and qualifiers from these Trials will now wait to find out the finalized dates of the March Qualification Regatta, which will be set by COPARE, the Pan American Rowing Confederation, according to USRowing--and should get a chance in the coming weeks to see the 2023 National Team Selection Procedures when those are published for the coming year.
|Log in to comment|
There are no Comments yet