Palo Alto grad Colette Lucas-Conwell helped the United States remain the dominant force in women's U23 eight as she helped guide the Americans to a fifth consecutive gold medal at the World Rowing Under 23 Championships in Rotterdam. Competition was completed on Sunday.
Stanford incoming freshman Emily Delleman will have a nice story to tell her future women's rowing teammates about a boat named 'Rotterdam Gold,' and Cardinal incoming freshmen Brennan Wertz and Jovanni Stefani can boast to their future teammates.
Sacred Heart Prep student Trey Holterman will be able to show off his gold medal and India Robinson also brings a medal to Stanford rowing.
Coxswain Lucas-Conwell, Kendall Chase, Georgia Ratcliff, Sarah Dougherty, Regina Salmons, Gia Doonan, Kendall Brewer, Cassandra Johnson and Erin Briggs cleared the field of competitors within the first 750 meters of the race. The crew took the gold medal in a time of 6:36.90, finishing 9.16 seconds ahead of Great Britain (6:44.06) and Russia (6:45.50).
"I was just making sure they stayed chill but relished what they had just accomplished," Lucas Conwell told USRowing when asked how she handled the crew through the first half of the race. "I continued to urge them for more, half a boat length of open water wasn't going to be good enough for us. We didn't want to leave anything on the water."
The victory marks the eighth gold medal for the U.S. eight in its history at the under 23 world championships, an event in which the U.S. has never finished off the podium.
Delleman and teammate Caroline Sharis earned their new possession after winning the first-ever medal for the U.S. in the junior women's double sculls.
"Our coach told us before the race that if we won, he would buy the boat and name it 'Rotterdam Gold,' so that gave us a little extra incentive," Sharis told USRowing. "More than anything, we just wanted to win. We have been training so hard, and this is such an amazing moment. I can't believe it."
The U.S. delivered a record haul of six medals: one gold, one silver and four bronze. For two of those crews, including the double, it marked the first time in history a medal had been won by the U.S. in that event.
Delleman, a junior national team veteran, and Sharis were shocked at how early they were able to gain the lead.
"Being out ahead of the field, we realized that it was totally in our grasp to win this thing," Delleman said. "To work so hard all summer and to see it pay off like this is by far the best feeling ever. To be able to share this experience with someone from my home team (Davenport, Iowa) makes it even better."
Making another move with 750 meters to go through the crosswind, the duo cemented its gold-medal position, finishing in a time of 7:08.12 followed by Greece (7:10.55) and Italy (7:10.78).
Delleman and Sharis defeated Italy by just over two seconds in the semifinal of the junior women's double sculls. Denmark finished just behind in third. Greece, Germany and Australia advanced out of the second semifinal.
Holterman, in seat two, was part of a dramatic finish in the junior men's eight final.
"I will never forget crossing the halfway mark," stroke Gordon Johnson said. "We were neck-in-neck with Germany and that was a very real moment. Coming into that final sprint and our coxswain yelling that they had that half a seat right before the race ended, that is going to stick with me forever."
In what was described by the announcer as "the most epic way to end a regatta and what rowing is all about," came down to an absolute battle as Germany and the United States duked it out for the gold medal.
Johnson and Holterman were joined by coxswain Jacob Shusko, Charles Turina, Nikita Lilichenko, Cole Ortiz, Ethan Seder, Drew Taylor and Michael Cuellar as the Americans raced bow-ball to bow-ball with the Germans the entire second half of the course.
With 750 meters left to go, the U.S. edged its bow ball in front of the German crew in what was turning out to be one of the tightest races of the day. But, the Germans responded with a move of their own through the red buoys and would ultimately win gold with a time of 5:38.58, just 0.03 seconds ahead of the Americans who finished in 5:38.61. Great Britain won bronze in 5:43.25.
The three-hundredths of a second will not be the only thing Johnson remembers about his trip to Rotterdam, though.
"These are my best friends," he said. "They're my brothers. I am looking forward to seeing what we all do in the future."
Wertz and Stefani won the first under 23 medal in the men's pair since 2002.
"We felt very well prepared," Wertz told USRowing. "We had good training and a lot of help from Craig (Amerkhanian) from Stanford and Stuart Maeder from Dartmouth, who was actually in this event. We are grateful for that."
While some may have taken the five days of rest as a blessing, Wertz and Stefani spent most of the time itching to race.
"It was a lot of build-up," Wertz said. "The water has been nice when we have been practicing, and the boat has been feeling great. I've never had to wait like that, and I don't know that I enjoyed that aspect of it. But, our goal was to advance right to the final. It was a new experience, and you learn from it and move on. We came in wanting to make that final and that is what we did; it's great to medal."
Quick off the start, Serbia took an open-water lead over the field within the first 500 to force Wertz and Stefani to spend the rest of the race fighting to inch into the lead shell.
Within the last 300 meters, France made a blistering sprint to nab the silver medal in a time of 6:59.44, 2.6 seconds ahead of the American's time of 7:02.04. Serbia would maintain its lead and finish in 6:58.01.
Robinson helped the U.S. women's four to a bronze medal in Sunday's final. The boat finished third in a time of 6:47.60, behind first-place Germany (6:42.17) and second-place Italy (6:43.15).
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