The 2012 RoRys, Part I: The Junior Level

Today marks the first of three straight days celebrating the top performances and most influential people in rowing this year, at the junior, collegiate and elite levels. It was an outstanding year for our sport, with the Olympics and Paralympics crowning a season of racing 2012 jam-packed with amazing stories and close finishes. And so, without further ado, here are the 2012 RoRys for the Junior Level!

RoRys for Programs of the Year
Marin Men
The Marin Rowing Association junior men are now back-to-back RoRy winners in the Program of the Year category, after another undefeated season in the varsity eight, and two more national titles in the varsity and lightweight eights in Oak Ridge. Men's head coach Graham Willoughby has set up a system that continues to deliver, and the 2011-2012 season certainly backed up a breakthrough campaign the year before.

Oakland Strokes Women
Under the guidance of head coach Derek Byrnes, the Oakland Strokes women's squad absolutely put on a clinic at youth nationals, walking away to convincing victories in both the varsity and lightweight eights, paralleling Marin on the men's side. Despite having a late season setback in the varsity eight at the Southwest junior regional championships (where last year's national champions, Marin, came from behind to win a surprise victory over Oakland), the Strokes bounced back and claimed the national title in Tennessee.

RoRys for Coaches of the Year
Men - Graham Willoughby, Marin
What can we say? He did it again. This marks Willoughby's second straight RoRy for Coach of the Year–trust me, we tried to give it to someone else, but the strength of the Marin men this year, as well as a solid fifth-place finish for Willoughby's charges in the junior men's eight at worlds this summer forced our hand. Congrats to the Marin program for becoming the most decorated club in our first two rounds of RoRys!

Women - Günter Beutter, GMS
Without a doubt, Beutter has had a huge impact on every aspect of the program at GMS, from recruiting through training and racing, and the results show that he's on top of his game. GMS boasted some of the strongest sculling results at junior nationals this year, with senior phenom Rosie Grinalds leading the charge. Beutter's strong season continued at junior worlds, where his women's quad became the first U.S. crew to medal in that event, taking silver.

RoRy for Race of the Year
Junior Women's Pair, 2012 World Rowing Senior and Junior Championships
Without question, this was a game effort, and marked another first medal for the U.S. junior women in that event. Kadie Brown and Christine Cavallo got out of the blocks very well, and held on to a narrow advantage over the surging Italians through 1500m. While the final 500m of the race didn't play out as planned, the U.S. crew put themselves in a position to win, gave it everything they had, and found themselves on the podium as a result.

Breakthrough Performance of the Year
Elizabeth Sharis, Y Quad Cities
While success is nothing new to young Elizabeth Sharis, this year she showcased a new level of speed, though still only 15 years of age. Sharis took silver in the women's single behind rival sculler Rosie Grinalds of GMS–two months later, however, the two would team up to form half of the U.S. junior women's quad (along with W1x bronze medalist from youth nationals, Cicely Madden, and Alex Zadravec) at worlds, taking another, perhaps more prestigious silver medal in Bulgaria. We'll be looking for big things from Sharis over the next few years.

Athletes of the Year
Male Athlete of the Year: Rich Caputo of Deerfield Academy
Standing at 6'5" and weighing in at 185 lbs, Caputo has a ton of athletic potential, and he's already starting to make good on it. Caputo took first place at the 2012 youth national championships in Oak Ridge, and went on to make the JM8+ at worlds this year, which placed fifth overall. Like Elizabeth Sharis, he also comes from rowing stock, as his father, Rich, rowed for Brown University.

Female Athlete of the Year: Ruth Narode of Rose City Rowing Club
Ruth Narode got her 2012 season started with a bang, qualifying for a free trip to C.R.A.S.H.-B.s in Boston, and nearly holding off Janina Scholz of Germany for first place in the Junior Heavyweight Women's event–Scholz claimed the top of the podium in 6:54.6, with Narode crossing in an impressive 6:55.4. While her club did not attend the 2012 youth nationals, Narode was invited to selection camp, where she earned a seat in the priority boat–the junior women's coxless four. In Bulgaria, Narode and crew took a strong silver medal behind China.

Honorable mention for Female Athlete of the Year must go to Rosie Grinalds of GMS, who had an amazing season, winning two USRowing youth national titles in the same morning (the women's single and quad), and taking silver at worlds in the JW4x.

Congrats to all our RoRy winners at the junior level! Coming up tomorrow are the RoRys for the collegiate level, to be followed by our top picks in the elite ranks on Friday.


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