Sunday, June 22, 2014

2014 USRowing Youth Nationals: California Dreaming

Pete Cipollone and Scott Gault distributing the medals (Photo: B. Kitch)
The 2014 USRowing youth national championship regatta showcased the top talent in the junior ranks, and saw race after race of tightly packed fields charging to the line in dramatic fashion. While the entire country was well represented, from sea to shining sea, it was the 'home' teams who most often found their way to the top—in fact, teams from the West Coast took home 11 of 18 available gold medals in Sacramento. Gives a whole new meaning to the nickname 'Gold Country,' wouldn't you say?

Last Sunday's finals began with the women's single, and a great performance from last year's national silver medalist Elizabeth Sharis of Y Quad Cities—a program, headed by her father, Peter Sharis, that proved extremely efficient, much like their West Coast rivals Seattle Rowing Center. Sharis took first by roughly a length over SRC's Simone Framson, with Emily Kallfelz of Narragansett rounding out the podium finishes (the 1-2-3 finish that we predicted). In the men's single, it was Ben Davison of Seattle Rowing Center, who rowed away from the field to victory (pushing out the margin to almost 16 seconds when all was said and done), with Jack Kelley of Jacksonville taking silver—Orange County's Matt Scholl took the bronze.

The men's and women's lightweight doubles saw two more victories for Seattle Rowing Center—Conal Groom's program, in just its fifth year of existence, is already making waves. In the women's double (and how could we have missed this in our pre-race predictions), it was the Campbell sisters of New Canaan who posted impressive performances in both the semi and the final, putting more than 10 seconds between themselves and second place—our predicted winner, Vashon Island, took third behind Greenwich. Just goes to show—don't bet against the Campbell family when playing around in boats. In the men's double, Saugatuck edged Rye and Brookline in a very tight final—all three crews within two seconds as they crossed the line. The women's pair saw a very experienced crew from Marin take the title, while the White Rock men edged Three Rivers Rowing Association for the gold.

The quad finals saw both Sharis and Davison repeat their earlier success—both athletes took home two gold medals from youth nationals this year, and again Y Quad Cities and Seattle Rowing Center were on top of the podium. Some of the closest racing of the day came in the men's and women's fours, where two crews from Deerfield and two from Pacific Rowing Club mixed it up all the way down the course across both events. On the women's side, it was Deerfield who got the better of their West Coast competition, edging PRC into second, with River City taking third overall. The men's final, however, was a different story—in one of the most exciting finishes of the regatta, Pacific—a crew that had to petition to get into this year's national championships, having finished a close fourth at regionals—put on a tremendous sprint to the line, coming from third place with 500m to go to take the gold medal. Belmont Hill took second, with Deerfield rounding out the podium in third place.

Pacific RC (nearest to the camera)  begin their sprint to the finish (Photo: B. Kitch)
The big boats continued the high level of racing, though with the exception of the men's lightweight eight, the fields were more spread out than one might have expected. Marin took the men's lightweight eight ahead of Newport Aquatic Center, with a great race from Detroit putting them in front of St. Joe's Prep for the final podium position (Detroit's second-consecutive bronze at nationals in that event). The women's lightweight eight—also as we indicated before the finals—went to Oakland, and by a significant margin. It was one of those years for Oakland, who made it two for two with a walkaway victory in the women's varsity eight later in the afternoon ahead of Connecticut Boat Club and Sarasota.



The men's eight final saw a crew from Long Beach realize its potential all in one weekend—despite finishing a distant third at regionals, the LBJC coaching staff and athletes elected to bring the eight (rather than the victories pair and four) to nationals this year, and the gamble more than paid off. It was evident in the heats that Long Beach had figured something out, posting one of the fastest times of the day on Friday despite having a 10-second lead, and they carried this momentum through to the final.



Taking the silver were our predicted winners, Oakland, with Sarasota fighting their way onto the podium in third place, recovering well after a slow start to the regatta. Congrats to all the racers who made the trip out west this year, and we're looking forward to seeing how things shake up next year at Nathan Benderson Park—after all, Sarasota did put all four of their eights in A Finals this season. Could next year's regatta be all about the 'Beasts from the East?'

For complete results, please visit the official website of USRowing.

-RR

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