What a difference a day makes! The progression from the Thursday heats looks like a harsh one, with several of the contested events advancing only the winner from each heat and everyone else headed for reps. The big difference today is that no events require quarterfinals, while all of yesterday's events did. Yesterday, the top three or four from each event advanced; today, there were a number of heats that advanced only one crew to a semi or A final, with everyone else headed to the reps. Yesterday, you could come in second in your heat to advance to the quarterfinals while posting the eleventh fastest time overall (it happened); today there were events where posting the second fastest time of the event put you in the reps due to the unfortunate fate of having the crew with the fastest time in your one-to-go heat. Anyway, long story short, today's advancement scenarios were not quite as brutish as they might otherwise seem.
The US women's four (Marlee Blue, Claire Collins, Dana Moffat and Mia Croonquist) provided the stateside highlight of the day as they began their potential defense of last year's win in the event with a wire-to-wire win that also earned them the fastest time of the day by just under four seconds. The role of defending champions is always a tricky one, not least because on the junior level, last year's champion athletes have very often aged out of the competition. The US boat is no different, with all of last year's crew having gone on to college.
"They had a lot of pressure as defending gold medalists, which we tried to take off," coach Liz Trond said. "I think they feel good getting the first one out of the way and executing it as well as they could."
"Our game plan was to win the heat, and to row a little better," Trond added. "With two brand new people internationally and a brand new person steering, they had a great start and then we had a couple of fumbles, so we're going to work on that for the semifinal."
For sure learning curves can be steep at a junior worlds, and how quickly you scramble up the learning slope may be the determining factor in your results. The women's eight (Liliana Hansen, Katy Gillingham, India Robinson, Isabel Fitter, Julia Sesler, Melissa Curtis, Erica Swartwout, Shayla Lamb and Riley MacAulay) showed a pretty steep curve today; after a first 1000 that put them in fourth of four at one point, the crew posted the fastest last 1000 of the event, passing Australia and Belarus to place second. A bit of on the job training gone well, very good to see such quick progress achieved mid-race.
Things went a bit the opposite for the men's four (Izak Epstein, Alex Miklasevich, Benjamin Cohen and Mac Manion ), which had a great go out of the start to lead to the 1000. They gave up some water in the third 500 as Italy got through, but were still in one of the top two semi spots until Romania charged through the entire field, with a push from sixth all the way to first capped off by a bruising sprint. The US crew fell into third, and goes to the reps.
The women's quad of Emily Kallfelz, Georgia Gray,Emily Delleman, and Haley Zapolski finished third in its heat, earning a spot in Saturday's semifinals. Great Britain grabbed the lead off the start and continued to hold an advantage heading into the final quarter of the race. However, China made a strong move to overtake the Brits and pulled away during the final 500 meters to win by nearly three seconds. China finished with a time of 6:41.81, with Great Britain clocking a 6:44.70. The U.S. raced in second position for the first half of the race before giving way to China. The crew crossed the line in a 6:47.67.
Both the women's pair (Lily Lindsay and Meghan Galloway )and women's double (sisters Mary and Claire Campbell) put together races that showed solid potential, but in very different ways; the pair rowed to the front of the field in the early going, only to have Canada take away the single advancing spot in the second half of the race; the double started out in fifth, then churned through the field to finish second, although they didn't really challenge the leader Greece this time out. Both also advance to the reps.
The US men's coxed four (Keith Lewis, Daniel Hogan, Andrew Gaard, Charles Watt, and Andrew Greubel)and eight (Cole Durbin, Nick Edwards, Michael Grady, Liam Corrigan, Brennan Wertz, Jovanni Stefani, Travis Taaffe, Andrew Barnish and Lucas Peilert) suffered similar fates today, racing more or less in the pack for much of the race without really ever challenging for the lead. The eight in particular has looked pretty slick this summer, so this may be a case where the trip through the reps is not a bad thing; hopefully there is still some learning curve left to climb for the crew.
Today also featured the reps from yesterday's heats, and the US men's double (Galen Bernick and Daniel Holod) got a little bit of redemption after failing to advance to the QF yesterday by winning their rep to advance today. When you are dealing with quarterfinals, the old "row through the reps" option isn't as attractive or straightforward, but you take your wins where you can get them, and this was definitely the place for the crew to start.
Friday's schedule is the longest of the week, with heaps of semis, quarterfinals, and reps in 13 events; see the full schedule here. Time difference to the US east coast is six hours; see you then.
(Some quotes provided by Brett Johnson of USRowing)