For the first time in history, the U.S. squad took home three gold medals from the World Rowing Junior Championships, winning the men's eight, women's eight and women's four with coxswain in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. Isaiah Harrison added a bronze medal in the men's single sculls to give the Americans four total medals at the 2021 World Rowing Junior Championships.
The three gold medals led the medal table, while this year also marked the first time in history that the U.S. swept the eights at the junior championships.
In the last race of the day, the men's eight of coxswain Adam Casler (Newport Beach, Calif./Newport Aquatic Center), Tyler Horler (Sarasota, Fla./Sarasota Crew), Ryan Link (Burke, Va./Gonzaga College High School), Jordan Dykema (Seattle, Wash./Pocock Rowing Center), John Patton (Houston, Texas/Deerfield Academy), Miles Hudgins (Andover, Mass./Greater Lawrence Rowing Association), Julian Thomas (New Hope, Pa./Princeton National Rowing Association/Mercer), Aidan Murphy (Huntington Beach, Calif./Newport Aquatic Center) and Stephen Warming (Newton, Mass./Belmont Hill School) dominated the middle 1,000 meters and cruised to an eight-seat victory over the Germans to give the U.S. its first victory in the event since 2010.
"(Our coach) Eric (Gehrke) was here this morning watching the races go by and the biggest thing he saw was a lot of countries just jump out front and they wanted to win the first 500 and try to hold on and say dare to catch us," Casler said. "Our plan was just to get to the 500 being a seat or two down. We knew we were going to be down, but we wanted to just get to our base and track everyone down because our base is our strongest suit."
Germany and Belarus hit the 500-meter mark dead even, with the U.S. just a seat behind. But, the U.S. began to overtake the two leaders in the second 500, taking a half-second lead into the back half of the race. The U.S. then really put down the hammer, pushing the advantage to almost three seconds, a length ahead of Germany. The German crew was able to close the gap slightly in the final sprint, but the Americans won by more than two seconds.
At the line, the U.S. had clocked a 5:47.70 to claim gold, with Germany finishing in a 5:50.03 for silver. Russia won the bronze medal. The victory gave the U.S. a clean sweep of the eights, as the women's boat won gold a little less than an hour before.
"It's amazing," Horler said of winning gold. "I've been really thinking of it for so long. One of my good friends, Harry Schofield, was the former stroke of the men's eight, and we've had a bit of a competition ever since I was put in stroke. To get this gold, it feels amazing."
In the women's eight final, coxswain Lauren Peters (Knoxville, Tenn./Atomic Rowing), Nora Goodwillie (Chicago, Ill./Chicago Rowing Foundation), Sofia Simone (Miami, Fla./Sarasota Crew), Julietta Camahort (San Francisco, Calif./Marin Rowing Association), Mia Levy (Des Moines, Iowa/Andover Crew), Sophia Klessel (Bronxville, N.Y./RowAmerica Rye), Paloma Sequeira (Cambridge, Mass./ Rowing, Inc.), Cate Van Stone (Philadelphia, Pa./Mount Saint Joseph Academy) and Elsa Hartman (Roseville, Calif./Capital Crew) gave the U.S. its second gold medal of the day in impressive fashion, dominating the middle half of the race to walk away with the victory.
Romania took a slight lead early in the race, but the U.S. crew had pushed its bow-ball ahead as the boats hit the first timing marker. The American boat settled into its strong base rhythm and pulled away from the rest of the field in the second 500 meters, gaining an eight-seat lead in the second quarter of the race. During the third 500, the U.S. extended its advantage to open water before comfortably crossing the finish line nearly four seconds ahead of Germany.
"We had a little bit of a rough start, but we expected to be down at the start a little bit," Goodwillie said. "We just had to get settled into our rhythm. We took our moves correctly and we moved. We were getting pushed at the sprint and executed the sprint really well and just opened up our lead. We've always been confident with our base. We just keep it long, relaxed, strong. We trust each other to keep it and hold it all the way through."
At the finish, it was the U.S. crossing first in a 6:34.51, followed by Germany in the silver-medal position and Romania taking the bronze. It was the first time the U.S. had won the event since 2009.
"It's surreal," Goodwillie said of winning gold. "It hasn't really set in yet but crossing the line was so exciting. It's so exciting to represent the United States here."
In the first medal race of the day, the women's four with coxswain of Victoria Grieder (Windermere, Fla./Orlando Area Rowing Society), Julia Veith (Philadelphia, Pa./Whitemarsh Boat Club), Jane Cox (San Diego, Calif./San Diego Rowing Club), Imogen Cabot (Cambridge, Mass./The Winsor School) and Quincy Stone (San Francisco, Calif./Marin Rowing Association) turned a boat-length deficit into an open-water victory over the final 1,000 meters to win the gold medal ahead of Italy. The Italians took the race out hard and had built a length lead as the crews reached the midway point of the race.
That's when the U.S. used its strong base rhythm to begin eating away at the Italian's lead. As the crews entered the final 500 meters, the U.S. had closed the gap to about two feet and then pulled away from Italy over the final stretch to win by more than five seconds.
"I'd say the race was one of the best we've ever had in terms of staying internal," Veith said. "As a relatively young crew, we used to get really freaked out about external factors, and for most of the race, the Italians had us by over a length – maybe just by a length. I felt iit in the boat that no one really cared about that. We just cared about performing our best. We knew that our best could get the Italians at the end and really throw down a good time. I think that race was just the best we possibly could have done in terms of staying internal and staying really (trusting) of every single person in the boat, and that's what got us this gold medal."
The U.S. finished with a time of 7:05.90, with Italy winning silver in a 7:11.41. Germany took the bronze. For the U.S., it was the first gold medal in the event since its addition to the program in 2018.
"Insane," Veith said about what it feels like to win a gold medal. "I've actually never won gold I don't really think. I come from a small club and to just come out here and to do this was an honor. And to win a gold medal, I just have to thank every coach who's ever given me a chance, especially the ones from selection. It's one of the most insane moments of my life."
In the final of the men's single sculls, Isaiah Harrison (Coeur d'Alene, Idaho) led heading into the final 500 meters but couldn't hang on as Lithuania's Povilas Juskevicius and Belgium's Aaron Andries were able to chase down the American.
In what was a tight, four-boat race, Germany's Oliver Holtz got off to the early lead and was still racing at the head of the field by a half-length as the scullers hit the halfway point. During the third quarter of the race, Harrison pulled his bow-ball ahead of Holtz and entered the final stretch with a half-length on Holtz. But, Juskevicius was quickly chasing down the German and used that momentum to overtake Harrison as the scullers entered the final 200 meters.
At the line, Juskevicius had won gold in a 7:02.00, with Andries taking silver in a 7:02.60. Harrison finished in a time of 7:03.67 to take home the bronze.
"The race was going well until maybe just past 500 (to go)," Harrison said. "At 250, I tried turning on the sprint. The other guys just had a little bit more. Great competition. We expected the best, and they were here."
The women's four of Paris Burbine (Alpharetta, Ga./St. Andrew Rowing Club), Meagan Goldsmith (Ocoee, Fla./Orlando Area Rowing Society), Cillian Mullen (Batavia, Ill./Chicago Rowing Foundation) and Maeve Heneghan (Chicago, Ill./Chicago Rowing Foundation) got edged out at the line, finishing fourth in the final. Romania, who reached the final via the repechage, jumped out on the field in the early going, ahead of France and the U.S. The Romanians continued to extend their lead over the second quarter of the race, crossing the midway point 2.34 seconds ahead of the American boat. The U.S. continued to race in second position through the third 500, with Italy closing the gap in third. In the final sprint, Romania was able to hold off a furious charge at the line by the three other medal contenders, winning in a time of 6:51.15. France won a photo-finish for silver by 0.13 seconds ahead of Italy, with the Americans another 0.30 back. The French crew clocked a 6:52.26, with the U.S. crossing in a 6:52.69.
The men's four with coxswain of Sammy Houdaigui (McLean, Va./First Coast Rowing), William Thayer (New Orleans, La./St. Paul's School), Samuel Kleiner (Westport, Conn./Saugatuck Rowing Club), Liam White (Chicago, Ill./Chicago Rowing Foundation), and Adam Pushner (Fairfield, Conn./Saugatuck Rowing Club) finished fourth in the final, also just missing a medal. Italy took the race out strong and had built more than a length lead in the first half of the race over France. The U.S. got off the line in fifth position but moved into fourth behind the third-place crew from Turkey as the crews reached the midway point. Italy continued to increase its lead over France during the third 500 meters, as Turkey closed the gap on the silver-medal position. During the final quarter of the race, Italy maintained its more than boat-length lead over the field, with Turkey overtaking France for silver. Italy won the race in a 6:18.23, with Turkey finishing 3.30 seconds behind in second. France won the bronze medal. The U.S. clocked a 6:26.15.
In the women's quadruple sculls, Meena Baher (Mountain View, Calif./Los Gatos Rowing Club), Heather Schmidt (Niskayuna, N.Y./Niskayuna Rowing), Jackie Oruci (Oyster Bay, N.Y./Oak Neck Rowing Academy) and Annie Herring (Dallas, Texas/The Hockaday School) finished sixth in the final. The crew lost contact with the medal contenders in the second quarter of the race and was never able to get back on terms with the leading boats. Switzerland took an early lead and was able to meet Italy's persistent challenges throughout the rest of the race. The Swiss crew won gold in a 6:34.81, with Italy finishing in second. Germany claimed the bronze medal ahead of Romania. The U.S. finished with a time of 6:54.72.
In the B final of the women's pair, Bridget Galloway (Ridgefield, Conn./Connecticut Boat Club) and Sophia Greco (Rowayton, Conn./Connecticut Boat Club) defeated Spain by just over a length to win the race and claim seventh place overall. Galloway and Greco blasted off the line, taking an open water lead in the first 500 meters and extending their advantage to over a length of open water at the midway point. Spain spent the second half of the race trying to close the gap, but the U.S. maintained a comfortable margin through the line. The U.S. finished with a time of 7:42.54, with Spain finishing 2.11 seconds back in a 7:44.65. Sweden finished third.
The men's pair of Emmett Infante (Mountain Lakes, N.J./Row New Jersey) and Wilson Morton (Summit, N.J./Row New Jersey) finished second in the B final for an eighth-place finish overall. Italy grabbed the early lead on Spain and Lithuania, with the U.S. sitting in fourth 500 meters into the race. Infante and Morton moved into second position as the crews hit the 1,000-meter mark and then pulled away from Spain and Poland over the third quarter of the race. The U.S. tried to cut into the Italian lead during the second half of the row but finished about a length behind. Italy won the race in a 6:46.71, with the U.S. finishing in a 6:48.53. Poland took third.
In the men's four, Troy Riesenberger (Sarasota, Fla./Sarasota Crew), Davis Kelly (Vashon Island, Wash./Burton Beach Rowing Club), JJ Dubois (Gainesville, Fla./Sarasota Crew) and Declan Fry (Chicago, Ill./Chicago Rowing Foundation) finished third in the B final for a ninth-place finish overall. Denmark took the early lead on the U.S. and Poland before the American crew dropped into fourth as the boats hit the midway point. Denmark continued to hold a slight advantage on Poland during the third 500 meters, with the U.S. passing Croatia to move into third. In the final sprint, the Polish crew overtook the Danes to win the race, with the U.S. pulling away from Croatia to finish third. Poland clocked a 6:10.23, with Denmark finishing two seconds back. The U.S. finished with a time of 6:15.21.
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