In a non-Olympic year, racing in an early-season national selection regatta can be a step toward earning a spot on the national team and competing in a world championship. Or it can be a first chance to race and test the results of months of fall and winter training.
But this is an Olympic year and the only NSR of 2016, which begins Monday at the United States Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista Calif., has a more significant impact on the competitors who will race in the three scheduled events-the men's and women's pair and the lightweight men's pair.
It's more than an early-season selection regatta. It is about building on Olympic dreams.
A win in the men's and women's pair events at the 2016 National Selection Regatta I offers the chance to compete at World Rowing Cup II, and is a potential direct line to the 2016 team that will compete in Rio. A top-three finish at the May world cup in Lucerne, Switzerland, and the athletes will be offered a place on the U.S. Olympic squad.
But regardless of the eventual outcome of the winning crews at the world cup, the complete results of NSR I can make or break the dreams of 2016 Olympic hopefuls that will go to the line Monday morning. The crews that finish in the top six in the men's and women's pair earn placements into the selection camps where the priority big boats will be selected. In the lightweight men's pair, the top two crews earn placement in the selection camp for the lightweight men's four.
And so, the Row to Rio becomes more reality than dream for the athletes registered to compete next week.
"The excitement is starting and the competition should be fierce," said Curtis Jordan, USRowing Director of High Performance.
"This NSR will be the first step in selecting our 2016 Olympic Team. Not only will this event potentially select our men's and women's pairs, but it will also be the gateway into the men's and women's selection camps."
Racing at NSR I is scheduled to begin Monday morning at 10 a.m. local time with time trials. Heats follow Tuesday. Semifinals and C/D finals are scheduled for Wednesday, with finals set to take place Thursday morning.
Finals racing will be live streamed on USRowing's You Tube Channel.
In addition to earning the right to compete at the World Rowing Cup II, the winners of the men's and women's pair will be awarded $3,500, which is being donated by the National Rowing Foundation (NRF) as part of the recently created Frank A. Shields awards.
The awards are to be given annually to one or more athletes whose performance leading up to the world championships or Olympic Games is deemed by the High Performance Director of USRowing to be exemplary.
Shields was an avid sportsman and oarsman who was the captain of the University of Pennsylvania rowing team. In 1980, he also founded the Power Ten of New York, an organization dedicated to the support of USRowing.
For the lightweight men's pair, the United States Lightweight Rowing Association will donate a $3,500 award to the winners of the lightweight men's pair event.
There are 15 crews entered in the men's pair and 12 in the women's pair. Four crews are entered in the lightweight men's pair.
From the United States Training Center - Princeton, racing are Austin Hack (Old Lyme, Conn.) and Alex Karwoski (Hollis, N.H.); Matt Miller (Fairfax, Va.) and London bronze medalist Charlie Cole (New Canaan, Conn.); Seth Weil (Menlo Park, Calif.) and London bronze medalist Henrik Rummel(Pittsford, N.Y.); Anders Weiss (Barrington, R.I.) and Ryan Shelton (Wrightwood, Calif.); Nareg Guregian (North Hills, Calif.) and Tom Dethlefs (Lawrenceville, N.J.); Tim Aghai (Skokie, Ill.) and Mike Gennaro (Havertown, Pa.); London bronze medalist Glenn Ochal (Philadelphia, Pa.) and Steve Kasprzyk (Cinnaminson, N.J.).
Composite entries include Hans Struzyna (Kirkland, Wash.) and Sam Dommer (Folsom, Calif.) from the California Rowing Club (CRC) and USTC - Princeton. From USTC - Princeton and New York Athletic Club are Rob Munn (Redmond, Wash.) and Michael DiSanto (Boston, Mass.). London Olympians Grant James (DeKalb, Ill.) and Ross James(DeKalb, Ill.) are rowing as a composite entry from the NYAC and USTC - Princeton.
And, from the Seattle Rowing Center are Ambrose Puttmann (Cincinnati, Ohio) and David Eick (Raleigh, N.C.). CRC has one entry with Jimmy St. Louise and Matthew Lenhart (Lafayette, Calif.). Rowing as an entry from Vesper Boat Club are Yohann Rigogne(Besançon, France) and London Olympian Tom Peszek (Farmington Hills, Mich.), and rowing as an entry from the Craftsbury Green River Racing Project are Parker Washburn (Andover, Mass.) and Andrew Reed (Wayland, Mass.).
The men's pair event has an abundance of senior team experience among the crews. Twenty-three of the athletes entered have rowed in a previous world championship and seven rowed in the 2012 Olympic Games. Cole, Ochal and Rummel won bronze in the four. Ross and Grant James finished fourth in the eight along with Kasprzyk. Peszek finished eighth in the pair.
There are 12 entries in the women's pair, 11 from USTC - Princeton including London bronze medalist Adrienne Martelli (University Place, Wash.) and Taylor Goetzinger (Mt. Pleasant, Mich.); Olivia Coffey (Watkins Glen, N.Y.) and Amanda Polk (Pittsburgh, Pa.); Heidi Robbins (Hanover, N.H.) and Vicky Opitz (Middleton, Wis.); Amanda Elmore (West Lafayette, Ind.) and Tessa Gobbo(Chesterfield, N.H.); Grace Latz(Jackson, Mich.) and Kristine O'Brien (Massapequa Park, N.Y.); Lauren Schmetterling (Moorestown, N.J.) and Emily Regan (Buffalo, N.Y.); Tracy Eisser (Fair Lawn, N.J.) and Erin Boxberger (Overland Park, Kan.); Kerry Simmonds (San Diego, Calif.) and London bronze medalist Megan Kalmoe (St. Croix Falls, Wis.); London gold medalist Meghan Musnicki (Naples, N.Y.) and two-time Olympic champion in the eight, Eleanor Logan (Boothbay Harbor, Maine); Grace Luczak (Ann Arbor, Mich.) and Felice Mueller (Cleveland, Ohio); Emily Huelskamp (Sainte Genevieve, Mo.) and London bronze medalist Kara Kohler (Clayton, Calif.).
Twenty-one of the 22 USTC - Princeton athletes have rowed in a prior world championship and four rowed in the 2012 Olympic Games including Logan and Musnicki who won gold in the eight and Kohler and Kalmoe, who won bronze in the quadruple sculls.
The lightweight men's pair event has four crews from the USTC - Oklahoma City entered including Tyler Nase (Phoenixville, Pa.) and London Olympian Anthony Fahden (Lafayette, Calif.); Beijing Olympian Will Daly (Vail, Colo.) and Tom Swartz (Chevy Chase, Md.); London Olympian Robin Prendes(Miami, Fla.) and Edward King (Ironton, Mo.); Brendan Harrington (Garden City, N.Y.) and Peter Gibson (Belmont, Mass.).
Fahden and Prendes finished eighth in the lightweight men's four at the 2012 Olympic Games. Daly rowed in the event in the 2008 Olympic Games and finished 11th. King and Nase have both competed in the event at the world championships.