Saturday was finals day at the Senior/Junior World Championships in Linz/Ottensheim, Austria. There were forty more races to be contested, all on the junior side of the slate. Thirteen of the races were 'A' finals, read: for all the marbles. The other 27 races- B, C, D, and E finals, still had plenty of importance, as at the end of the day every rower in this championship will know exactly where they fall in the general classification of junior rowing. With dead conditions again today, there will be plenty of proud parents doing A, B, C, and D final time differentials. Fair enough. Five US crews competed in Junior A Finals- the JW1x, JM2-, JW4-, JW8+ and JM8+. Four US crews, the JW2x, JM2x, JW2- and JM4+ raced in B finals, fighting it out for places 7th thru 12th in the world. Two American lineups, the JM1x and JW4x raced in C finals- for 13th thru 18th places, and the JM4x raced in their respective D final for 19th thru 21st place.
Before I set the stage a bit I'll give you a sneak peak at the good stuff. The US finished in a tie for second in the medal count today with a first-ever gold in the JW8+, a silver in the JW1x, and a bronze in the JM8+.
The weather cooperated again today, providing totally benign wind conditions for the rowers and temps in the low 70s. It was still cloudy but today you could call it a haze. The head puff evident on Friday might have lightened a touch overnight as rowers posted some times today that were slightly faster than yesterday. I should mention that I dipped my hand in the Danube and I would estimate the river's temp in the low to mid 60s. This is not very conducive to fast times, so any speed on the board is a credit to the quality of the rowing and the depth of the competition. The finals were run in reverse order E-A, but we're going to report them from A-E. During the lunch break before the A finals, a dead calm came over the race course so no wind was helping or hurting the rowers.
The US JW8+, smoked the field in the final 1000m, to claim the first ever JW8+ gold medal for US since the inception of women's junior world championship rowing. The US 8+ finished in a time of 6:31.44, 3/4 of a length ahead of second place Romania, with clear water back to Germany in third. The crew of stroke Melissa Ongun (Michigan '12), Erika Roddy (Stanford '11), Emily Reynolds (Princeton '11), fifteen-year-old high school junior Brandy Herold, Cristina Felix (Michigan '12), Martha Kuzzy(UVA '12), Molly Hamrick (Plant HS '09), Anastasia Alexander and coxswain Chelsea Lucas fell behind Germany and Romania in the first 500m, before climbing into 2nd place in the next 500, and pressing through Romania to take the lead with about 900 meters to go. The boat looked very business like in pulling away from Romania with every stroke over the final stanza leaving no doubt that they were indeed the top boat in the field. Congrats to Steve Hargis, in his fifth year as US Junior Women's head coach after more than five years as the development coordinator. He's one of the good guys of the sport and deserves this win big time. Many of his ladies today have been with him for multiple years as he has identified them, nurtured them through various D Camps, and turned them into the gold medalists that they are. It was great to finally hear the Star-Spangled Banner after almost eight hours of racing.
Not to be upstaged by her counterparts in the JW8+, and in one of the most brilliant US sculling performances of all-time, on any level, Cara Linnenkohl won a silver medal in the JW1x with a time of 7:58.89 in dead conditions. For some reason I don't feel bad about saying yesterday that Cara only had an outside shot at bronze. She exceeded all expectations by dictating the terms of the race and making the other rowers respond to her. In a bold race strategy, Cara stormed ahead of her rivals from Norway, Romania, Australia and Croatia. Several of these rowers took turns beating Cara in other races this week, but today Cara wrote a different story. I imagine the other ladies, especially from Romania and Norway, were shocked by the speed of Cara's first 1000m and only Norway was able to wake up in time to cling onto Cara's bow. Even after Tale Gjoertz of Norway got back in contact with Cara around the 1250, Linnekohl deftly smoothed her rating up and pulled away for the remainder of the race. Not sure about Cara's power as compared to the last JW1x medalist, Lindsay Meyer, but her technique cannot be matched. Cara exhibited beautifully long strokes with razor sharp catches for the entirety of her race, never having to bring her rating much above 30s/m. Now she has me thinking that it's a shame she ran into such a buzz saw in Germany's Carina Baer. In any other year, Cara might have been able to win this thing were it not for the impressive German, who won the event with a time of 7:50.76.
In the last race of the day (I'm reporting in order of placing rather than chronology), the US JM8+ was unable to stay with the rapid closing 500m of Germany and NZL but won the bronze medal, finishing in third place with a time of 5:54.50. This is the first medal for the US in this event since winning gold in Brandenburg in 2005. The crew of Ian Silveira (Princeton '12), Tyler Nase (Lasalle '09), Nick Jordan (Harvard '12), Tom Dethlefs (Yale '12), Brian Wettach (St. John's '09), Justin Hopkins (UW '12), Ivan Lys-Dobradin (Winter Park '09) Cameron Klotz (St. John Vianney '09) and Keenan Clark (SJ Prep '09) got off the line very well and was right with the leader, Germany, through the 500m mark. Germany took their traditional move at the 1:30 mark, established a half length lead, and held that through the 1000. At this point NZL wanted to get involved and pulled level with the US for second. In the last 900m, the US desparately clung to their silver medal position but NZL was too much to handle in the last 300-400 meters. NZL made a very nice race of it pulling within one seat of Germany as they crossed the line just .4 seconds behind Germany's winning time of 5:50.0
In the final of the JM2-, JP Hogan and AJ Brooks looked to upstage their historic qualification for the A final in this event, by winning a medal. The good news is that they had their best race of four in this regatta, the bad news is that it was only good enough for a fourth place finish in a time of 6:57.53. The US crew, and stern pair of the current National Champions of the Youth 8+, performed remarkably well throughout this championship. Today, they brazenly bolted off the line trailing only eventual winner Greece, and leading perennial powers in this event, Germany, Australia, France and Slovenia. At the 500m mark the US was in a clear second place and still underrating the crews in the middle of the field. In the middle thousand Australia and Germany got wise to the US's tactics way out in Lane 1 and put their moves in. With 500 to go the echelon was Greece, 3/4 of a length back to Germany, a canvass back to US and Australia who were dead-level. With the US having such a good sprint this was a great position to be in and I would argue that the US did pull ahead of AUS for third place with about 200 to go. AUS gave one more push, however, and held off the US pair by less than two feet for third. Heartbreak Hotel. The US pair was completely and understandably devastated. It's always tough to get fourth, but someone should remind these guys that they weren't supposed to be here today. Both guys in this boat have one more year in high school but can no longer compete at the junior world's level.
The US JW4- of Lucy Grinalds, Michelle Pearson, Elizabeth Nilan, and Eliza Hastings qualified for this final through the repechage on Thursday and finished their world championships with a sixth place finish in today's final, in a time of 7:22.44. The US was unable to break off of the line cleanly and never connected with the top three places, New Zealand, Italy, and Great Britain. While Eliza is no longer eligible to compete at these championships, her middle pair have one more year of eligibility and FISA will allow fifteen-year-old bow-seat Lucy Grinalds to do this three more times! Pretty impressive stuff in its own right.
Shannon Stief and Mary Maginnis won their B final and finished 7th in the world in the JW2- with a time of 7:49.66. The pair lagged the field off the line but put together a very useful middle 1000 to establish a length lead going into the last 500m. The crew was never challenged and even splitted all four 500s in the process of claiming top spot in the B final and ending the regatta on a high note. Germany eventually won the A final by edging out Romania by .2 seconds and only one other crew, third-place Belarus, could better America's time from the B Final one hour earlier. As I reported the other day, this pair has only been together for three weeks. Let's do the math: a) they had a total of about 40 rows together, which means that b) they have rowed more together n Europe than they did in the US. The longer these girls can stay on a nearly vertical learning curve the brighter their future will be. Maginnis will most likely figure into the US lineups next year, as she is still eligible for the 2009 Junior Worlds in France.
The JM4+ of Andrew Lewis (Princeton '12), Kyle Schmidt (Pine View School '09), Chris Lutz (Syracuse '12) and Brian Searle (Cornell '12), and coxswain Devon Teichman (St. Joe's '12) finished just behind New Zealand in their B final and 8th place in the world with a time of 6:40.26. This boat showed good scrap all week but never found a good enough rhythm to contend with the top boats. Germany won the A final going away, Great Britain shocked some observers by finishing in second out of lane 1, and Ukraine finished third. In the B final, the US raced bow ball to bow ball with the Kiwis for 1200m before dropping back a half length in the 3rd 500. With 250 to go Lewis brought the rate up to 40+ making the most of his last 25 strokes in Austria. Despite moving on NZL significantly the US still finished .90 seconds shy of first place. Four of the boys have plenty to look forward to at their respective colleges and will certainly make an impact wherever they are headed. Kyle Schmidt will return to his budding Pine View School program where he will look to build on some impressive finishes at the Stotes and SRAAs last season.
The JM2x, finished sixth in their B final, good for a final world ranking of 12th place. Their final time was 6:53.21. The competitiveness of this event is illustrated both in the final results of all the 2x finals, but also just by watching these races play out in front of you. These kids in the JM2x, from all of the countries, were running on fumes today. I wrote about it on Thursday so I have to follow up on the razor-thin margins between the final rankings in this event. After sorting out the exceptional times of the three medalists, Germany, Lithuania, and Australia, the final times of 4th thru 6th in the A final and the B Final were a mirror image of the times in the C Final and so on. This event goes deep, and Austin and Tom should get a ton of credit for cracking the top twelve. Look for them to be somewhere near the stern of the Harvard Freshman Lightweight 8+ next year.
The JW2x of Eiffert and McKellop also finished sixth in their B final, and are ranked 12th in world. After having the benefit of a heat and repechage draw that you dream about, competition in the semi A/B and B final ramped way up for these girls and they were never able to get on the train to the front. The same could be said about their B final as they fell behind early and never recovered. I have to remind everyone that this event was fully subscribed and the US double had already put themselves ahead of a good chunk of the field. 12th place is something to build on for McKellop who will be eligible to compete in France next year. Eiffert is on her way to row for the maize and blue of Michigan.
The JW4x of Reelick, Dickson (Yale), Van Fossen (Radcliffe), and Knaster were able to finish first in their C final with a time of 7:00.8, good enough for 13th in the final world rankings. This quad, which narrowly missed out on qualifying for their top 12 spots on Thursday, made good use of their last chance to show some speed. They blasted off the line, leaving the other two boats in their final, Japan and Ukraine behind, and never giving them a chance to compete for the top spot.
Keenan Reelick finished his world championship campaign in 15th place, by finishing 3rd in his C final with a time of 7:21.88. In a race that featured some of the same characters that factored into yesterday's C/D semi mayhem, Keenan had to use all of a very strong last 500 to go from fifth to third at the line. Brazil's Fabio Jose Moreira must have been reading row2k.com last night, as he employed his no huddle offense from the opening gun. He was able to post a 7:16.35, which was 15 seconds faster than his time yesterday and 6 seconds faster than Sweden's B final-winning time. Shoulda-coulda-woulda for Jose, but we still all love him. By the way, Keenan's time of 7:21 beat the entire field in the B final that was run one hour later under "similar" conditions. I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.
The A final of the JM1x was a race for the ages. German sculler and heavy underdog Hagen Rothe, gave the reigning world champion from Bulgaria, Aleksandar Aleksandrov (you can't make this stuff up), everything he could handle. These two raced each other all the way down the course with Double-A (yes, I gave him a nickname, he's that good) holding about one half length with 500 to go. Inspired by a raucous German cheering section (its quite a machine), Rothe came level with 250 to go. Now I have already been extremely impressed by AA as he has toyed with the field in the first three rounds of this event, but what he did in the last 20 today will have coaches talking for awhile. Not only was AA rowing 46 s/m, in a single, but he was making the most of his strokes. Really. I don't even have words to describe his last ten and what it did to launch his bow ball toward the line, just ahead of the gutty German. Final time, 7:06.32. This race was the last of a long summer for AA as he nearly missed out on qualifying Bulgaria for the Olympics in Poznan last month.
The JM4x finished in third place of their D final, for a final world ranking of 21st. Matthew Sobotka and Gabe Fort still have junior world's eligibility and will have more chances at this, while Harold Fort and Ian Stewart are off to make an impression on the collegiate lightweight rowing scene.
This report cannot end without giving special mention to the crew that scored by far the biggest upset of the day. Spain, a boat that finished third in their semi final in the JM4-, tore up the last 500 in a blistering 1:31.4 to storm ahead of Romania, Germany and Australia like they were standing still. One quick look at Spain's final time of 6:15.9 shows you that their last quarter was ridiculous! Have you ever watched a straight four row 48 s/m in front of a grandstand? Well, that's exactly what the fans packing the banks of the Danube were treated to today in the A final of the most competitive junior sweep event. You know how I said the German national anthem starts to grate on you toward the end of the finals, well yeah, after watching GER raise their flag no less than eight times today, the Spanish victory was fantastic!! Their celebration was even better as they climbed through the grandstand hugging parents, friends, and people they probably didn't even know in a post-Wimbledon-esque manner. Thanks for the memories, Spanish JM4-. For all you coaches out there, I suggest you get your hands on a DVD of this race somehow. It'll go in your library right next to the 2000 Olympic Final in the M2-.
That's it for the on site reporting for the Senior/Junior Worlds. The beer tent is calling and I have a flight to catch back to the States. My apologies for senior rowing fans for missing out on tomorrow's action but duty calls at home. Final medal count from Junior Worlds: Germany: Eight gold, two silver, two bronze United States: One Gold, one silver, one bronze New Zealand: One Gold, one silver, one bronze Romania: Three silver Italy: Two silver, one bronze Australia: Three bronze Spain: One gold Greece: One gold Bulgaria: One gold Austria: One silver Lithuania: One silver Great Britain: One silver Ukraine: One bronze Belarus: One bronze Nederland: One bronze