First U.S. Medal Won and Five More Crews in the Finals

by Ed Moran, Photos by Allison Frederick, | Aug 28, 2014
AMSTERDAM – From its opening heat in the 2014 World Rowing Championships, it was clear the United States legs, trunk and arms four with coxswain was in contention for a medal.


 The United States legs, trunk and arms coxed four won silver in Amsterdam Thursday

AMSTERDAM – From its opening heat in the 2014 World Rowing Championships, it was clear the United States legs, trunk and arms four with coxswain was in contention for a medal.

The crew raced ahead of the defending world champion British crew in its heat on Monday before being overtaken, finishing second and being sent to the repechage on Tuesday, where they jumped off the line and were never challenged.

On Friday, the first day of finals, the crew of Jenny Sichel (Clifton, N.J.), Ricky Vandegrift (Cincinnati, Ohio), Zachary Burns (Ann Arbor. Mich.), Dani Hansen (Paterson, Calif.) and Jaclyn Smith (Williston Park, N.Y.) fulfilled those expectations, finishing second to the British and taking the silver medal, the first for the United States in this world championship.

“We got the silver, and I am so proud to be part of a crew that is probably one of the youngest crews to be here,” said Hansen. “We got silver, but gold next year, next year for sure.

“It’s very surreal,” she said. “It’s my first year of rowing, and it’s very surreal to come to a regatta this large with so much happening. There are people everywhere, cameras and launches, and I think part of the reason why we did this well was we had an inward focus, and it really paid off in the end.”

In the final, Great Britain led off the line, and the U.S. went after them, but they were too fast and the U.S. crossed in 3:25.49. Great Britain took the gold medal in 3:20.45. Italy won bronze in 3:30.39.

“I’m super proud of them,” said coach Ellen Minzner. “They look disappointed, but we came here with two 17 year-olds, two 20 year-olds. They came here to upset the reigning world and Paralympic champion. For them to not be satisfied with a silver tells me that they’re real champions and it’s nothing to hang their heads down about.

"I like the fact that there’s some disappointment in their faces, because I know they’ll come back hungrier next year.

“I think we learned a lot just by being here. We talked about how professional the steady state looks here at the race course and how the warm ups are part of your mental preparation. It’s more than just the pre-race warm up on race day. It’s all of this preparing to conduct yourselves like seasoned veterans. They did that every step of the way. Maybe a few nerves showed in this particular race, but that’s what it’s like at this level. I’m so psyched for them.”

In the men’s arms and shoulders single sculls, Blake Haxton (Columbus, Ohio) also rowed in the final, in just his first time in international competition. Haxton, who has been rowing just a little over two months, was fourth in 4:59.97.

Defending world champion Erik Horrie of Australia won in 4:50.68. Great Britain’s Tom Aggar was second in 4:53.41, and Russia’s Alexey Chuvashev was third in 4:58.96.

In all, it was a successful day for the United States.
Following days of heats and grueling second-chance racing, five crews advanced to the medal round.
Lightweight women’s single sculler  Kate Bertko (Oakland, Calif.) will race in the final of her event Friday, following her semifinal win Thursday.

In all, eight U.S. crews raced in the semifinals. In addition to Bertko reaching her Friday final, the men’s and women’s pair, women’s quadruple sculls and men’s four advanced to their respective Saturday finals.

The lightweight men’s and women’s double sculls and men’s quadruple sculls raced in semifinals, but did not advance. In the lightweight men’s single sculls, Andrew Campbell, Jr., raced in the third-level semifinal.

In the lightweight women’s single, Bertko got off the line fast, took the lead and raced the length of the course, watching the pack row behind her. She won in 7:53.71, followed by Greece in 7:55.59 and China in 7:57.44.

Bertko, who won a silver medal in the lightweight women’s double at the 2013 World Rowing Championships, will race in the final against Greece, China, Belgium, Canada and Germany.

“It was exciting,” Bertko said of her semifinal race. “It’s been a bit of a process getting here, so I’m really excited to have the opportunity to race. I was actually fired up about Andrew Campbell getting back in the boat and completing his race yesterday. So I was like, ‘that was pretty gutsy. I’m sure I can try something today.’”

The day started with a morning semifinal for Kerry Simmonds (San Diego, Calif.) and Megan Kalmoe (St. Croix Falls, Wis.) in the women’s pair. Simmonds and Kalmoe had won their heat on Sunday and came into today’s race fresh.

The U.S. crew took the lead early and just built on it over the course. New Zealand’s Louise Trappitt and Rebecca Scown and Australia’s Charlotte Sutherland and Lucy Stephan went after them, but could not catch up.

“We lucked out getting a morning semi,” Simmonds said. “The water was nice. There were not that many people out there, and it was a great row. We had fun. I feel like this one was all business, and the final’s going to be kind of, last one, fast one.”

“I thought it was great,” Kalmoe said. “Kerry is doing a really good job in her first worlds in the pair, laying down a really sweet rhythm for me to just back her up and follow her down the course, pretty much.

“We had a really good time coming off the line today. It felt quick and fast and smooth, and it continued to feel that way down the course. It’s interesting. This is a different way that we’ve been racing over the season. We’ve been kind of a ‘come from behind’ crew in pretty much all of our races. Coming here, being out in front for a change is fun.”

The U.S. won with the fastest time of the semis in 7:16.35. New Zealand was second in 7:22.12, and Australia was third in 7:30.02.

All three crews will race in the Saturday final and will be joined by Great Britain, Romania and Russia. Great Britain’s Helen Glover and Heather Stanning are the defending Olympic champions in the event and rowed an equally impressive race in the first semifinal, winning their heat in 7:16.62.

The U.S. and British pair faced each other in World Cup II. Stanning and Glover won that match, and Simmonds and Kalmoe were second.

Racing for U.S. crews picked up again in the late afternoon with seven more semifinals. By then, the conditions had switched from calm and sunny, to overcast and windy. Bertko was first to race, followed by Charlie Cole (New Canaan, Conn.) and Glenn Ochal (Philadelphia, Pa.) in the men’s pair.

Cole and Ochal moved into second place in the first 500 meters, but were overtaken by Great Britain in the second quarter. New Zealand’s Olympic and world champions Eric Murray and Hamish Bond held the lead, and the U.S. and Great Britain fought it out for second and third. The U.S. advanced to the final in third with a time of 6:33.92.

New Zealand won in 6:24.98, and Great Britain was second in 6:28.33.

“Reaching the final was the goal coming in,” Ochal said. “We’re getting better each race, and we need to have our best race on Saturday to get where we want to go. Unlike the first race, we got into it, and we were just racing. It was a good race, but it needs to get better and we have two days to get ready.”

In the men’s four semifinal, Seth Weil (Menlo Park, Calif.), Henrik Rummel (Pittsford, N.Y.), Michael Gennaro (Havertown, Pa.) and Grant James (DeKalb, Ill.) were in second place behind Great Britain from the start. With Canada chasing in third, the race was pretty quickly a battle between the leading three boats.

The U.S. finished in second in 5:55.53. Great Britain won in 5:52.62, and Canada was the third boat to advance in 5:59.34. The U.S. will race Great Britain and Canada again on Saturday for medals, joined by Australia, Greece and The Netherlands.

“That was good,” said Weil. “The semis are always the most stressful, because it’s one and done. So I’m glad to be out of it and into the final, and now it’s time to get to work.”

The U.S. finished third at last year’s world championships and again at the second world cup this year, where they raced Great Britain and Australia, who were first and second. At the 2013 World Rowing Championships, The Netherlands won gold and Australia was second, so the crews in this final are familiar with each other.

“It’s going to be awesome,” Weil said. “We’ve raced these guys, not the same GB four, but we raced The Netherlands crew and the Australian crew, so it should be a battle royale.”

Next to reach the medal round was the women’s quadruple sculls crew of Felice Mueller (Cleveland, Ohio), Olivia Coffey (Watkins Glen, N.Y.), Grace Latz (Jackson, Mich.) and Tracy Eisser (Fair Lawn, N.J.).

The U.S. took the lead in the opening 500 meters, but China passed them in the next quarter. China maintained the lead while New Zealand went after the Americans.

New Zealand got close, but the U.S. held on and finished second in 6:24.50. China won in 6:22.34, and New Zealand crossed in 6:25.09. Those three crews will have the top three from the second semifinal – Germany, Australia and Canada – join them in the final.

“I’m really excited. It was good,” said Eisser, who is rowing in her first senior world championship. “China made a pretty early move, and I think that maybe we were a little surprised by that. We thought we were going to have to slug it out in the third five hundred (meters).

“So I think that for the final, just being able to counter moves that other countries make, whether or not we expect them, will help us to feel like we are more in control. Our goal from the beginning was to get ourselves to this point. As long as we make it to the medal round, we have a shot at the medals.”

In the lightweight men’s double, Josh Konieczny (Millbury, Ohio) and Austin Meyer (Cohoes, N.Y.)  came within a breath of making the final, but were left out after a race to the line between five of the six crews.

Starting at the back, the U.S. climbed into third, passing South Africa at the grandstands. From shore, it was difficult to determine which crew was going to advance behind France and Norway. But in the last strokes, South Africa nipped the U.S.

France won in 6:19.59. Norway was second in 6:20.66. South Africa was third in 6:22.60 and the U.S. crossed in 6:22.95. They row in the B final Saturday.

Also missing a chance to advance was Michelle Sechser (Folsom, Calif.) and Devery Karz (Park City, Utah.) in the lightweight women’s double sculls. They were in advancing position at the 500-meter mark, but dropped back into fifth by the finish line.

Canada won in 7:04.36, with Australia second in 7:05.48. Italy was third in 7:06.27, and the U.S. finished in 7:10.39.

In the men’s quadruple sculls semifinal two, Benjamin Dann (Pound Ridge, N.Y.), John Graves (Cincinnati, Ohio), Stephen Whelpley (Mequon, Wis.) and Peter Graves (Cincinnati, Ohio) were the next U.S. crew to be involved in a fight through the last quarter.

After rowing in third place through the first half, the field closed on the U.S. In the end, Ukraine won in 5:47.85. China was second in 5:49.62 and Switzerland was third to advance in 5:50.11. The U.S. finished in 5:53.25 and row in the B final.
In the lightweight men’s single, Andrew Campbell, Jr. (New Canaan, Conn.) who was knocked out of medal contention Wednesday when he hit a buoy with his oar in the quarterfinal, raced in the C semifinal and won. He races Friday morning in the C final.

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