Racing concluded with finals in the men’s and women’s single sculls, lightweight single sculls, and pairs Sunday morning at USRowing’s 2023 Winter Speed Order at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota, Fla.
The closest race of the day came in the lightweight men’s single, where the top four finishers crossed the line within 1.07 seconds of each other. Texas Rowing Center’s Jasper Liu (Phoenix, Ariz./University of Pennsylvania) edged out teammate Zachary Heese (Pelham, N.Y./University of Virginia) by 0.09 seconds to take the victory in a 6:59.58. Heese crossed in a 6:59.67. The two rowed together in the lightweight men’s double sculls at last year’s world championships.
“I knew today was going to be really competitive, expecting to have six boats across at the halfway (point) and see who was tougher in the second half and who had the most juice left,” Liu said. “I found myself down in about fifth at halfway and had to fight for it.”
New York Athletic Club’s Sam Melvin (Huntington Beach, Calif./Columbia University), the 2019 Word Rowing Under 23 Championships’ gold medalist in the lightweight single, finished third, crossing in a 7:00.23, while Penn AC’s Jamie Copus (Oxford, England/Oxford Brookes University), a multiple time British National Team member who is hoping to make the U.S. team in 2023, finished fourth in a 7:01.05.
“The goal is the lightweight double and trying to qualify that at worlds this year,” Liu said. “Today was a really good sign for U.S. lightweight men’s rowing – having four boats that close and pulling fast percentages. I think we are going to have a really competitive selection process for the first time in a while. There’s a saying that you can’t make a fast double with two fast people. You need three or four fast guys to make a fast double, so it’s really good to have and it’s going to push us the rest of the year.”
In the lightweight women’s single sculls, USRowing Training Center – Princeton’s Michelle Sechser (Folsom, Calif./University of Tulsa) took the victory over her doubles partner, Sarasota Crew’s Molly Reckford (Short Hills, N.J./Dartmouth College), by 2.61 seconds. Sechser clocked a 7:30.69 to win the race, with Reckford finishing with a time of 7:33.30. The duo has raced the lightweight double sculls the last two seasons, winning a silver medal at the 2022 World Rowing Championships and finishing fifth at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
“Today’s race was fantastic. It was really nice to show up at the racecourse and have beautiful glass water conditions after the team here endured a couple of days of wavy, challenging conditions,” Sechser said. “It was so awesome to be in this final with doubles partner Molly Reckford and Mary Jones – two incredibly fast, strong, veteran rowers – and just getting to line up with the best in the country is always a great day.
Whitemarsh Boat Club’s Audrey Boersen (West Olive, Mich./Grand Valley State University) finished third in a 7:36.75, with Cambridge Boat Club’s Mary Jones Nabel (Huntsville, Ala./University of Tennessee) taking fourth.
“It was a really fun week,” Sechser said. “(USRowing Chief High Performance Officer) Josy (Verdonkschot) has this fantastic new plan in place. The team was able to come together. We did three weeks of erging up in Colorado Springs and came here and did two weeks of training as a group, so to finish this really nice block with three opportunities to go out and lay it all down on the line is as good as you can ask for.”
Texas Rowing Center’s Sophia Vitas (Franklin, Wis./University of Wisconsin) finished 2.67 seconds ahead of ARION’s Lauren O’Connor (Belleville, Wis./University of Wisconsin) to win the final of the women’s single sculls. Vitas clocked a 7:27.71 to O’Connor’s 7:29.88. TRC teammate Kara Kohler (Clayton, Calif./University of California, Berkeley) finished third in a 7:31.55, with Cambridge Boat Club’s Emily Kallfelz (Jamestown, R.I./Princeton University) taking fourth in a 7:36.19. Vitas raced in the women’s double sculls at last year’s world championships, while Kohler raced the women’s single and Kallfelz raced in the women’s quad. O’Connor is seeking her first national team berth this season after finishing second to Kohler in the single at the 2022 Senior National Team Trials.
“It was a lot of fun,” Vitas said. “There were fast conditions. After having to deal with the wind (earlier this weekend), it was nice to have some flat water to work with. Each race was a little bit different. I learned a little bit more each time I went down the course. It was fun to compete against all of the fast women from around (the country).”
In the men’s single sculls, California Rowing Club’s Sorin Koszyk (Grosse Pointe Park, Mich./Cornell University) continued his strong showing in Sarasota by winning the final by five seconds over CRC teammate Ben Davison (Inverness, Fla./University of Washington). Koszyk, who raced the double sculls at last year’s world championships, finished with a time of 6:49.29, with Davison crossing in a 6:54.29. Davison raced the single at last year’s worlds, finishing eighth. Craftsbury Green Racing Project’s Jacob Plihal (Vashon Island, Wash./Northeastern University) took third in a 6:48.76, with CRC’s Andrew LeRoux (Venice, Fla./Princeton University) finishing fourth in a 7:00.59.
“Today, I was just trying to do my own thing, get into a rhythm, and just put down a good piece,” Koszyk said. “I thought this week was pretty good. I went through each race just trying to put down a solid piece and peak for the final. We’ll just go back to Oakland and just keep training with the guys and see what’s fast.”
USRowing Training Center – Princeton’s Charlotte Buck (Nyack, N.Y./Columbia University) and Jessica Thoennes (Highlands Ranch, Colo./University of Washington) won the final of the women’s pair, finishing 1.52 seconds ahead of USTC-Princeton teammates Kelsey Reelick (Brookfield, Conn./Princeton University) and Molly Bruggeman (Dayton, Ohio/University of Notre Dame). Buck and Thoennes, who were part of the women’s eight at both last year’s world championships and the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, crossed the finish line in a 7:06.59.
“It was super fun,” Buck said. “Jess is one of my favorite people to race with. We’ve done a lot of pair racing together, and we learned a little bit from each race this week. We knew since the conditions were going to be better today, that was going to favor our fitness. So, we just wanted to go out there and see what we could do.”
Reelick and Bruggeman, who also were part of last year’s eight, crossed in a 7:08.11, with USTC-Princeton’s Claire Collins (McLean, Va./Princeton University) and Teal Cohen (Dallas, Texas/University of Washington) finishing less than a second back in a 7:08.84. The CRC/CBC composite crew of Meghan Musnicki (Naples, N.Y./Ithaca College) and Alie Rusher (West Bend, Wis./Stanford University) finished fourth in a 7:09.32. Collins won a bronze medal in the event at last year’s world championships (also racing in the eight), while Cohen raced in the women’s four. Musnicki is a three-time Olympian and two-time Olympic gold medalist who is returning to competition after taking last year off, while Rusher was a Tokyo 2020 Olympian.
“We always want to learn something from each race, and we’re still getting better at racing the pair,” Buck said. “So, to take from each race, get a little better, and check a lot of the boxes that were on our list of things we wanted to achieve felt really gratifying.”
In the men’s pair, CRC’s Michael Grady (Pittsburgh, Pa./Cornell University) and Liam Corrigan (Old Lyme, Conn./Harvard University) finished 2.4 seconds ahead of teammates Nick Mead (Strafford, Pa./Princeton University) and Justin Best (Kennett Square, Pa./Drexel University) to win the final in a 6:24.31. Mead and Best finished in a 6:26.71. Grady raced the pair with Best at last year’s world championships, while Corrigan raced in the men’s eight and Mead raced in the men’s four.
“We had a good start, pretty fast through the 500 (meter mark),” said Corrigan. “I think we were just very internal and found a good rhythm. We had about a length most of the race. It felt good.”
CRC’s Oliver Bub (Westport, Conn./Dartmouth College) and William Bender (Norwich, Vt./Dartmouth College) finished third in a 6:28.80, with CRC’s Andrew Gaard (Madison, Wis./University of Washington) and Henry Hollingsworth (Dover, Mass./Brown University) taking fourth in a 6:29.01.
“It was good,” Grady said about this week’s racing. “It was kind of a short prep for a regatta like this – three weeks to hop in a lineup after the altitude camp. It was nice to build off each piece and think of how we can fine tune small critiques from race-to-race. Our focus was no big changes, just small changes.”
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This week’s speed order not only served as an opportunity for rowers to test their speed ahead of next month’s National Selection Regatta but also gave them a chance to earn automatic invitations to the first Olympic Events Selection Camp scheduled for April 30-May 21 in Chula Vista, Calif. The top three finishers in the men’s and women’s single sculls and pairs received invitations to the first selection camp, while the top two finishers in the men’s and women’s lightweight single sculls earned automatic invites.
The first selection camp, in addition to the National Selection Regatta, will determine the athletes who will make up the boats that will race at the 2023 World Cup II this June in Varese, Italy. Select athletes also will be provisionally named to the 2023 Senior National Team, although boats will not be finalized until the conclusion of the second selection camp.
The 2023 World Rowing Championships will take place September 3-10 in Belgrade, Serbia.
USRowing would like to thank Filippi Lido, the Official Boat Supplier for the U.S. Senior, Under 23, and Para Rowing National Teams. Under the agreement, Filippi is providing USRowing a fleet of boats for international competitions including the World Rowing Cup regattas, World Rowing Under 23 Championships, World Rowing Championships, Olympic Games, and Paralympic Games, as well as a domestic training fleet for the USRowing Training Center.
-From World Rowing