The women's eight defended its world title in convincing fashion on Sunday at the 2009 World Rowing Junior Championships in Brive-la-Gaillarde, France.
After taking the lead just before the midway point, the U.S. dominated the second half of the race to defeat New Zealand by more than four seconds in winning the gold medal. The crew of Chelsea Lucas (Greenbrae, Calif.), Kelly Bauer (Orinda, Calif.), Kristin Wentzel (San Anselmo, Calif.), Michelle Pearson (Pembroke, Bermuda), Louise Breen (North Hampton, N.H.), Rebeca Felix (San Marino, Calif.), Brandy Herald (Portland, Ore.), Molly Hamrick (Tampa, Fla.) and Elisabeth Murray (Tampa, Fla.) got off the line well and sat 0.27 seconds behind New Zealand 500 meters into the race.
"We were really expecting to be down a lot more at the first 500, so when we were only down a few seats, we really felt like it was in our reach. At that point, we knew it was doable," Lucas said. "We had some great moves in there, and we had really been working a lot on those as a boat. We had such great boat chemistry this year. We trusted each other so much and that made it all the better."
In the second quarter of the race, the U.S. took a 0.51-second lead and continued to build on that advantage through the 1,500-meter mark. Up by 1.81 seconds with 500 meters to go, the U.S. took it up another gear and rowed away from the rest of the field, winning by 4.30 seconds. The U.S. finished with a time of 6:26.89, with New Zealand taking second in a 6:31.19. Germany won the bronze medal in a 6:34.97.
"It was harder because we knew that Romania would be talking about us like we had talked about them before," said Lucas on repeating as world champions. "We felt like this year was our time to really focus on our speed. And the fact that we were able to do that with a new coach, who did a fantastic job preparing us for this - we just felt really confident on how we went out and executed our race plan."
In the final of the men's single sculls, Matthew Maddamma (Pittsburgh, Pa.) came up just short of the medal stand, finishing fourth by 0.18 seconds behind third-place Wanjie Yuan of China. Going into the final quarter of the race, Serbia's Milos Vasic was leading with Maddamma sitting in fifth position, less than two seconds behind second-place Kamil Zajkowski of Poland. Vasic, however, faltered down the stretch, and the rest of the field overtook him during the final 500 meters. As things were sorted out at the finish line, Germany's Felix Bach had come from fourth position to win the gold medal in a 7:03.07. Zajkowski took the silver medal in a 7:03.52, with Yuan taking third in a 7:05.05. Maddamma, who recorded the second fastest final 500-meter split, finished with a time of 7:05.23. By finishing fourth, Maddamma recorded the best finish for a U.S. men's single sculler at the World Rowing Junior Championships since Erik Moser took fourth in 1991.
The junior men's eight of Dylan Fish (Saratoga, Calif.), Alexander Bunkers (Maitland, Fla.), Preston Sandbakken (Folsom, Calif.), Brian Wettach (Wakefield, Mass.), Austin Hack (Old-Lyme, Conn.), Whitney Blodgett (Stanfordville, N.Y.), Patrick McGlone (Newton Square, Pa.), Jason Kopelman (Winnetka, Ill.) and Alex Taaffe (Sarasota, Fla.) also just missed a medal, finishing 0.12 seconds behind third-place Italy. The crew sat in fifth at the 1,000-meter mark before moving into fourth with 500 meters to go. The U.S. continued to chip away at third place over the final quarter of the race, coming up just short at the finish. Germany won the race in a 5:43.62, with Great Britain finishing second in a 5:44.65. Italy took the bronze medal by clocking a 5:46.70, with the U.S. coming home in a 5:46.82.
In the final of the women's four, the crew of Elizabeth Nilan (Milford, Conn.), Jennifer Stockwood (Winchester, Mass.), Chandler Lally (Bryn Mawr, Pa.) and Faith Richardson (Wellesley, Mass.) finished sixth. The U.S. boat was in contention for a medal at the midway point of the race but fell to sixth during the second 1,000 meters. Australia took the lead in the opening 500 meters and slowly pulled away for the victory, clocking a time of 6:48.18. Great Britain finished second in a 6:51.30, with China taking third in a 6:53.14. The U.S. finished with a time of 7:04.33.
The women's pair of Lucy Grinalds (Southport, Conn.) and Kristine O'Brien (Massapequa Park, N.Y.) also finished sixth in the final. Grinalds and O'Brien used a strong start to take second place in the first 500 meters. However, the duo dropped to fourth at the midway point of the race and was unable to get back into contention for the medal stand. Romania won the race in a 7:21.40, with Belarus finishing second in a 7:24.53. China took the bronze medal, clocking a 7:25.99. Grinalds and O'Brien came home in a 7:35.79.
Other gold medalists included Germany in the men's four with coxswain, women's single sculls, women's double sculls, men's double sculls and men's quadruple sculls; Serbia in the men's pair; Great Britain in the men's four; and China in the women's quadruple sculls. Germany won seven gold and nine total medals to win the medal count.
The U.S. also had four crews racing in placement finals on Saturday. The men's four with coxswain of Elliott Oakley (Arlington, Va.), Sam Hoidal (Evergreen, Colo.), Alec Macrae (Los Gatos, Calif.), Lenny Futterman (New York, N.Y.) and Nick Jaroszewicz (Cincinnati, Ohio) finished third in the B final for a ninth-place finish overall. Croatia led the race through the 1,000-meter mark, with New Zealand taking over first place during the second half of the race. The U.S. sat in fourth position through the midway point before moving up to third. New Zealand won the race with a time of 6:29.09, while Croatia finished less than one second behind in a 6:29.93. The U.S. clocked a 6:32.30 for third.
The men's four of Allan Amico (Orchard Park, N.Y.), Constantinos Gioulekas (Buffalo, N.Y.), Sean Johnston (Commerce, Mich.) and Ronald Rubino (Buffalo, N.Y.) also took ninth overall after finishing third in the B final. Although the race for the top four spots was tight throughout, Turkey jumped out to the lead in the first 500 meters and never relinquished it, crossing the finish line with a time of 6:18.32. Croatia was barely able to hold off a late charge by the U.S., which sat in fourth position at the midway point, to take second by 0.02 seconds. Croatia clocked a 6:19.86, with the U.S. finishing in a 6:19.88. France finished fourth.
The trend of third-place finishes in the B finals continued in the women's quadruple sculls. The crew of Kimberly Hopewell (Ridgefield, Conn.), Samantha Warren (Davis, Calif.), Alexandria Chrumka (Grosse Pointe Park, Mich.) and Margaret Bertasi (Weston, Conn.) battled Belgium and Greece for the top three spots the entire way down the course. Going into the last quarter of the race, Greece held the lead, with the U.S. sitting in second just 0.81 seconds behind. However, Belgium came back in the final 500 meters to earn the victory in a 6:46.08, with Greece holding on for second in a 6:48.08. The U.S. finished third (ninth overall) with a time of 6:48.63.
The men's quadruple sculls crew of Michael Wales (Mercer Island, Wash.), Mason Leasure (Jacksonville, Fla.), Gabriel Fort (Miami Beach, Fla.) and Will Dannemann (New Canaan, Conn.) finished fifth in the C final for a 17th-place finish overall. In what was a tight race, all six boats were within three seconds of each other as they entered the final 500 meters, with the U.S. sitting in sixth place. Wales and company were able to pass Austria in the final 250 meters, crossing the line in a 6:14.05 to finish 0.3 seconds behind Estonia. Croatia won the race in a 6:10.02, finishing 0.21 seconds ahead of Switzerland and 0.53 seconds ahead of Belarus.