Sunday, June 21, 2015

New Dynasties Emerging at 2015 USRowing Youth Nationals?

Last strokes of the men's varsity eight final at USRowing Youth Nationals, 2015 (Photo: J. Price)

It was another Year of the Dynasty in college rowing in 2015, but this year’s running of USRowing Youth Nationals saw new champions crowned.

Initially, the weather in Florida wasn’t cooperative, but after the storms rolled through, the skies cleared and Mother Nature made way for some spectacular racing. While the depth of the junior ranks is undoubtedly increasing, there were several memorable performances from individuals and teams precisely because of that rising tide—how many more times will we see both the men's and women's varsity eight winners at the Head Of The Charles repeat as champions in the spring?

That doesn't mean that they didn't have to earn it, though—especially in the very last race of the regatta.



National champion men’s head coach Brian de Regt of Oakland Strokes (our preseason no. 2) said he wast just trying not to crash his bike as he followed the race down the course, and we can see why—how could you take your eyes off that drama playing out on the water? While Oakland’s Bay Area rivals Marin were slightly off the pace in the final, it was a new-look Newport Aquatic Center, (RR preseason no. 3 seed) guided by recent-returnee head coach Nick D'Antoni, that led the charge all the way to the 1500-meter mark in the men’s varsity eight final. When they crossed the line, Oakland had edged NAC by just under four tenths of a second, with CRI (preseason no. 5) taking the bronze.

On the women’s side, it was Saugatuck (RR preseason no. 1) playing the part of Oakland’s 2014 team, with a double-championship in the varsity and lightweight eights. They started the season with a similar performance in Boston, placing their top two eights in the top eight crews overall—they made good on that promise with another excellent performance in Sarasota. Hats off to coach Chase Graham for an all-around outstanding season. Taking second in the women’s varsity eight was PNRA/Mercer (preseason no. 2), with Holy Names (a 'crew to watch' in the early season) taking the bronze.

While Saugatuck took home the gold in the women's lightweight eight, just head of Oakland Strokes and PNRA/Mercer (two more of the nation's deepest rosters in women's junior rowing), it was a crew from the Southwest region, Norcal, who bested the men's lightweight eight field convincingly—Norcal, whom we featured in our Video Of The Week on Monday, backed up their regional championship with a win of nearly a length over the field, with Belen Jesuit taking second, ahead of 2014 champs Marin in third place.

And, before we move on from the big boats, Sammamish Rowing Association ought to be recognized for a breakthrough year, placing their Northwest regional champion men's varsity and lightweight eights in the finals, and narrowly missing a medal in the women's lightweight four in Sarasota.

In the sculling events, Emily Kallfelz of Narragansett Boat Club (2014 RoRy Award winner for Female Athlete of the Year at the junior level) was making a strong case to win a RoRy Award for the second straight season. Not only did Kallfelz win the women’s single by open water, she then hopped in the double with her sister, Eliza, and scored a second victory, roughly eight seconds ahead of 2014 women's single winner Elizabeth Sharis (recipient of the 2012 RoRy for Female Athlete of the Year at the junior level) and her younger sister Caroline. The Sharis women did take home a gold, though, topping the podium in the women's quad.

Also, as we indicated at the outset of the racing, Elise Beuke of Olympic Peninsula Rowing Association raced very well, taking second place in the women's single, roughly two seconds ahead of Detroit’s Bella Strickler, who took third overall.

The men’s single went to Seattle Rowing Center’s Andrew Morley, who defended the title for the club, picking up where Ben Davison left off, with Tampa Training Center’s Sam O’Brien taking silver ahead of Hector Formoso-Murias of Belen Jesuit. And, Morley nearly matched Kallfellz's feat later, as he raced in the men's quad—a photo finish with New Canaan saw SRC fall just 0.16 seconds short of the gold, which would have been Morley's second of the day.

The Deerfield program came into the racing with two of the fastest fours, and while the women were able to hold off the field, including a very strong crew from Upper Natoma Rowing Club that took the silver, the Deerfield men took home the bronze behind Bromfield Acton Boxborough and Old Lyme, respectively, after a frantic sprint that saw all three podium crews finish within less than 1.6 seconds of one another. Congrats to Upper Natoma varsity coach Chris Manibusan for a great performance from a small, but up-and-coming club.

Look for more on the 2015 USRowing Youth National Championships in the upcoming issue of ROWING Magazine, on its way to a mailbox near you! For complete results from this year's racing at Nathan Benderson Park, follow the link above.

-RR

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