Day 2 of racing at the first National Selection Regatta saw the Men's and Women's scullers who missed qualifying yesterday battling it out in four 6-boat Repechages for the remaining eight spots in Thursday's Semis.
Savannah Brija, Grace Joyce, Emily Kallfelz, and Maggie Fellows grabbed the top spots in the Women's Single, and, with two to advance, Lauren O'Connor, Michalina Fili, Hannah Paynter, and Mary Jones Nabel also moved on and will be in the outside lanes of tomorrow's six boat semifinals.
In the Men's Single, Andrew Gaard Jonathan Kirkegaard, Michael Knippen, and Eliot Putnam won out, with Shane O'hEochaidh, Thomas Pfifer, Dominque Williams, and Olympian Thomas Peszek also advancing--and that final spot in the last race went to Peszek in a photo-finish.
Those 2nd place finishers today are the first to benefit from USRowing's new 6-lane selection format, which will-ultimately-give two more athletes a shot in the A Final compared to the old 4-lane trials format.
The other significant change with the new format was on display today, with these "straight from the Time Trial" Repechage races.
Instead of seeding a round of heats based on the time trial, and then giving the athletes a second-chance round following the heats, the new progression for these two 25+ entry events meant that those who missed the qualification standard in the Time Trial-which sent the top 4 finishers direct to the semis-had to battle it out this morning in what was effectively an elimination race.
The Lightweight Singles, in contrast, had few enough entries (9 for the Light Women and 11 for the Light Men) to go straight to the semis, but there still will be no repechage round. In all, there is a lot of needing to get it right "right away" in the new format: each sculler's first 2k off the start at this event is in a race for a transfer spot.
Getting it right today also meant dealing with tricky cross-tailwind conditions. The stiff breeze blowing today out of the south did not affect conditions at the start, where the protected water was flat, but things got progressively challenging down the track. At the finish, some very choppy water waited on the scullers, putting a premium of clean blade work.
Tom Peszek, who grabbed that final transfer spot in the last race of the morning by just 2-tenths of a second, felt the conditions were pretty manageable.
"There were definitely a few challenging parts, and more than a few strokes I'd like to take back, but nothing out of the ordinary for an outdoor sport," Peszek said. "My strategy was exactly the same as it would have been even if the conditions were flat, which was to row as efficiently as possible and just maximize my own shell's speed."
We asked about his strategy in that closing quarter, if he was willing to spill the beans, to which he replied "I'm old, washed up, and not training at nearly a high enough level to make the team this year, so I have no problem spilling what's really not a secret: for that last 250m or 500m, keep the eyes locked straight down the stern, and keep attacking the front-end to add more and more speed every single stroke." It was just enough to hold off the challenge from Green Racing Project's Luke Rein.
For Maggie Fellows, who posted the fastest time of the day in the final Women's race, had a more comfortable margin at the finish than Peszek and found the tailwind gave her a bit of a boost.
"I was focused on keeping my blade work clean in the conditions today. The wind was blowing but it was a helpful wind mostly," she said afterwards.
As for the new format, Fellows said:
"I was interested to see the new format prior to racing. I don't think it affects the racing itself too much. With the old progression and the new one you still get to line up and race!"
Peszek, who calls himself "not a big fan of the time trial format," did come out on the right side on the time trial to rep to semi gauntlet, so he was happy:
"For my own racing at this regatta: hey, looks like I'll get four races for the price of three!" he said.
Peszek also offered some contemporaneous thoughts on the field in general: "Last thought that doesn't directly answer any of your questions: as they say, 'the kids are alright' - I've been extremely impressed with the skill and poise of so many of the scullers here, and it's a great sign of things to come in American sculling."
Tomorrow, eyes will likely be on the middle lanes, where the top 4 scullers from Tuesday's Time Trial in both of these events will be back in action after today's rest day, along with all of the lightweight scullers in a four sets of 3-to-advance A/B Semis.
For the Women's 1x event, those middle lanes belong to Sophia Vitas, 2021 Olympians Kara Kohler and Kristi Wagner, and Emily Delleman--all of whom figure to factor in race for spots in the final.
For the men, the top times were put up by 2021 Olympian Ben Davison, Kevin Cardno, Jacob Plihal, and Sorin Koszyk. They will be joined by the 8 men who advanced to day to duke it out for the six berths in Friday's A Final.
Thursday's racing will also include the C, D and E Finals for the open weight scullers, and one F Final for spots 31 through 27 in the Women's 1x.
As you track the results, remember that only the openweight racing this week has direct selection implications, with the winners of the W1x and M1x here have the opportunity to compete at World Rowing Cup 2 in Poznan, Poland, in June. The lightweight singles, as we mentioned yesterday, are in pure speed order mode, with athletes looking to gauge their competitiveness in advance of the lightweight doubles trials later this year.
Notes from the Course