Kevin Meador will return to World Championship competition for the second consecutive year
When Kevin Meador won trials in the men's single last year, he was admittedly slightly unprepared for racing internationally in a new boat class and discipline. "I was pretty new to sculling last year," Meador said. "I didn't even have a full season in."
And when Meador went to the first men's single trials earlier this spring, he was still not completely ready for racing the single after only having ended winter training and getting on the water for a few weeks in early spring.
The results of both of those experiences was far from what Meador wanted. He finished 20th at the 2018 World Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, last summer and he finished third at trials this spring - two spots behind qualifying for a return to the national team. Penn AC's Michael Knippen won trials, and the right to compete at this year's World Championships.
But Knippen was also in the men's quad that won trials in that boat class, and handed the single slot back. Wednesday morning, Meador was happy to fill that position, winning the last of the US Team Trials on Mercer Lake, and he will now represent the US in the single at the 2019 World Rowing Championship this month in Linz, Austria.
Call it a second chance at a second chance.
Meador was one of the two of the last crews to be named to the 2019 US Team after racing in the final trials of the year. Also winning a slot on the team were Ezra Carlson and Anders Weiss, who won the men's pair portion of the three-day event.
This will be Carlson's first senior team and the fourth for Weiss, who rowed the event in the last two World Championships and the 2016 Olympics.
"I'm really hoping this time will be better," Meador said. "I feel like I have been able to focus a lot more on rowing this year, and I feel like I should be a lot more competitive. I've been able to improve a lot.
Kevin Meador is happy to be back
"After last year, I moved up to Craftsbury, and basically got a better coach and better teammates. I prioritized the single a lot more than the year before," he said. But even with a winter at Craftsbury Sculling Center, Meador was not able to win at the first single's trial.
"That was a very early season race," he said. "I had only been on the water for about a month. If I was able to win the first trials, that would have been ideal. But it was earlier in the season, not a lot of water time, and the competition was a little tougher.
"But in the end, Mike decided to do the quad, and I got my second chance, and now my second chance at Worlds. So, hopefully, I can do better at both now."
Like the singles trial, the men's pair event was also a second chance of sorts for several of the crews who came race for a spot on the national team after missing selection to a training center crew. Carlson and Weiss were among the last athletes to be cut from men's camp selection process, and came to Mercer Lake for a last shot at this year's World Championships.
It was a spot Weiss is familiar with after having raced at pair trials the last four seasons. Having that kind of experience in the boat class gave Weiss the confidence to come back to the pair again.
"It's a boat I am pretty quick in, so I'm always happy to end up here, always happy to earn my seat," said Weiss. "At the end of the day, it's whoever crosses the line first is going. And it's very satisfying to go to Worlds like that."
Weiss has been through the late stages on an Olympic cycle before, so he is aware of the importance of this World Championship. This is the third year in the Olympic cycle, and the one where countries get the first, and best, chance to qualify a boat for the coming 2020 Games.
Qualifying a boat class does not guarantee an athlete a slot in Tokyo, but it makes things a lot easier on any national team to avoid having to qualify at the final Olympic Qualification Regatta in the spring. The US did not qualify a men's eight at either the 2011 or 2015 World Championships, and Weiss is aware of how disruptive that can be.
"I think my training plan this entire year has been a little more intense because it's go time," he said. "It's been a long time coming, and this is where all the cards are on the table. If you don't perform well at Worlds, you have to go to the sudden death cup in Lucerne, and no one wants to do that," he said.
"We had to do that in 2016 and I know the amount of tension and pressure that comes with it. Instead of peaking once, you have to peak twice, and that's always hard to do. I think we're prepared mentally.
"My racing this past year has matured quite a lot. I'm happy leading from the front, and I'm happy walking through crews from behind, whereas before I was a little skittish coming off the line and felt like I had to lead."
Ezra Carlson and Anders Weiss celebrating
Carson said that having Weiss in the boat with him helped at trials.
"I'm happy with this," he said. "This is my first senior team, and second year trying for the senior team. I have learned a lot since finishing college in 2017, and coming to the training center after the NSR I this year.
"It has been really great training with all the guys there, it's a great group of guys with a lot of racing experience. Coming out here was another learning experience," he said. "I'm kind of one of the younger guys, newer guys at the training center, so I am always trying to learn, and rowing in the pair at pair trials with a guy that has been doing it for a few years was helpful in terms of confidence coming in to the racing."