Thursday, September 24, 2015

The 2015 RoRy Awards, Part One: Celebrating the Best in Rowing at the Junior Level


You may have heard of the ESPY Awards, ESPN's annual awards series. Well, they are only slightly less prestigious and highly coveted than the RoRys, our annual awards here at RowingRelated.

It may be hard to believe, but it's already time for the fifth annual RoRy Awards, our three-day celebration of the best athletes, coaches, and performances of the season at the junior, collegiate, and elite levels. In accordance with tradition, we're kicking off the festivities with a look at junior rowing—and there was no shortage of inspiration from the junior ranks this year! As we said immediately after the 2015 USRowing Youth National Championships, are we witnessing new dynasties emerge, East and West?

But we digress. Here, presented without further ado, are your 2015 RoRy Award winners for outstanding achievement at the junior level.

RoRy for Junior Sweep Program of the Year: 
Saugatuck Rowing Club
The Saugatuck women were all but unstoppable during the 2014-2015 season, having kicked things off with a splash at the Head Of The Charles (winning and placing two eights within the top eight overall), and continuing their streak of success through junior nationals: Saugatuck not only won the women's varsity eight, but also took the lightweight women's eight—a double-victory to match that of Derek Byrnes' outstanding Oakland team in 2014. And, the SRC second varsity eight once again impressed, placing eighth overall. Congratulations to coach Chase Graham (now at Duke University) and everyone at Saugatuck for fantastic year!

RoRy for Junior Sculling Program of the Year: 
Narragansett Boat Club
It seemed like the sculling events this year were a series of family rivalries, especially on the women's side, as the Kallfelz sisters of Narragansett took on the Sharis sisters of Y Quad Cities in the double. This year, it would be Emily Kallfelz (2014 RoRy Award winner for Junior Female Athlete of the Year) and sister Eliza who topped the podium—the second victory for Emily in the span of roughly two hours. Narragansett also took first place in the lightweight men's double, and NBC's Jack Luby took fourth in the men's single. Also, another NBC standout, Brigid Kennedy, took fifth in the women's single. Suffice it to say, they know their way around a sculling boat on the Seekonk.

RoRy for Junior Women's Coach of the Year: 
Chase Graham, Saugatuck Rowing Club
You might have seen this coming, but it's hard not to pick a guy who responded to a near miss in 2014 with a rare HOCR + national championship season. Graham prepared his team well enough to handle the pressure of the expectations, but coaches always talk about how getting that first one is the toughest—now, thanks in no small part to Graham's efforts, there are more than a few SRC athletes that are veterans of a national championship campaign, as this East Coast club looks to build a dynasty to rival those out west.

RoRy for Junior Men's Coach of the Year: 
Nick D'Antoni, Newport Aquatic Center
What was that we said about it being hard not to pick a guy who leads his team to both a Head Of The Charles victory and a national title? Well, we still love you, Brian de Regt (and hats off for an awesome first season with Oakland), but we had to give the award for Junior Men's Coach of the Year to NAC's own prodigal son, Nick D'Antoni. After taking a year away from junior rowing, coaching in Princeton, D'Antoni returned to Newport, and built a crew that far outperformed many people's expectations (not ours, though), nearly winning the junior men's eight at nationals. Then, D'Antoni coached the men's four to a best-ever, top-five finish at the World Rowing Junior Championships. Nice work, Nick!

RoRy for Breakthrough Performance of the Year: 
Community Rowing, Inc. Junior Men
The men's squad from CRI this year had a breakthrough performance at nationals, earning a bronze medal in a very tight field in the men's varsity eight, placed fifth in the lightweight eight, and scored a national title in the men's pair. CRI also brought a second eight to compete in the varsity event, placing 16th overall. Congratulations to coach Will Congram for building the speed of the program, and leading the CRI men to an outstanding performance on the regional and national stages this season.

RoRy for Junior Race of the Year:
The Men's Eight Grand Final, USRowing Youth National Championships
This was an all out battle to the line, that saw D'Antoni's Newport Aquatic Center nearly topple de Regt's outstanding Oakland crew, only to have Oakland come through in the final 500m with an epic sprint to claim the victory. Check out the waning stages of the race, as the crews rush to the line, in the video clip below.



RoRy for Junior Female Athlete of the Year:
Sofia Asoumanaki, Greek Rowing Federation
This has been a breakout season for Sofia Asoumanaki, whose memorable campaign began at Crash-Bs last March—Asoumanaki's 6:30.2 in the Junior women's category was roughly 13 seconds faster than the Open women's first-place finisher. But the results haven't just been impressive on land—after scoring a silver medal in the JW1x in Rio, Asoumanaki hopped into the double for senior, yes senior, worlds in Aiguebelette. The result? Asoumanaki and partner Aikaterini Nikolaidou took second place overall in a stacked field in France. We'd say that Asoumanaki could be a star in the making, but if we did, we'd be late to the party.

RoRy for Junior Male Athlete of the Year:
Danny Hogan, Oakland Strokes
Not only did Danny Hogan manage to find himself on one of the more controversial ROWING Magazine covers in recent memory (for all the right reasons, at least, having just stroked the Oakland varsity eight to victory in Sarasota), he also stroked the most successful U.S. men's four at the junior world championships to date. It was more than a solid season that capped off a very successful career for Hogan at Oakland that included multiple trips to the podium at youth nationals, and multiple stints on the junior national team. Now, Hogan will be taking his talents to Princeton, joining their men's lightweight team.

And just like that, the first round of rowing's most prestigious awards have already been given to their deserving recipients! Congratulations to all the winners! Tomorrow, we come right back at you with the best of the best at the intercollegiate level, with the tops at the elite level lined up for Saturday.

Keep it locked! And, in the meantime, explore past RoRy winners using the label below.

-RR

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