PHOTOS AND STORY BY ED MORAN
West Windsor, N.J. – With only two crews racing in the PR2 mixed double, there was really no reason to go out on Mercer Lake in West Windsor, N.J. in a cold and wind-driven rain to participate in the opening day of U.S. Olympic Trials II.
Monday morning was just a time trial to sort out the two events with multiple entries, including the women’s double and the men’s quad. All three para events, the PR1 men’s and women’s singles, which are uncontested, and the mixed double, were officially slated to go straight to a final on Thursday.
The five-day regatta will result in three para crews being named to the Tokyo Paralympics and one crew — the women’s double — being named to the Olympic team. All three para crews and the women’s double were qualified for the 2021 Games at the 2019 World Rowing Championships.
So, there was a lot on the line this week and both Bair Island Aquatic Center’s Laura Goodkind and Russell Gernaat, and Community Rowing’s Patrick Ward and Jennifer Fitz-Roy, coaches asked the crews to be allowed to row so they could see the competition and get a run on the course.
“To me, it doesn’t matter. I just row,” Gernaat said “The conditions were obviously pretty bad out there. “The water was pretty choppy, there was a crosswind and there were definitely some big gusts,” he said. “The time trial is the usual procedure, so we were following procedure.
“To me, it doesn’t matter. I just row.”
“I felt altogether the boat went smoothly in spite of all that.” Gernaat and Goodkind also looked smooth when they crossed the finish line more than three minutes in front of Ward and Fitz-Roy.
In the first race of the day, Cambridge Boat Club’s Margaret Fellows and Cicely Madden led the field of 16 women’s doubles and finished first in 7:03.50. They were followed by the U.S. women’s Princeton Training Center’s Jenifer Forbes and Sophia Vitas (7:04.19) and Cambridge teammates Gevvie Stone and Kristina Wagner (7:05.40).
“It was fun to be back at Mercer,” Madden said. “It was a good first step, and now we’re on to the heat and we’re excited. I didn’t realize how cold it was. At each part of the course we had to adapt to the conditions because it changes.”
Fellows and Madden will go to Tuesday’s heat as the top seed in the first of four heats. The top two finishers of those races will move directly to the Thursday semifinals. The bottom two crews will race in the reps on Wednesday.
For the six men’s quads that rowed Monday morning, the time trials sorted out the seeding for the two Thursday semifinals.
In that event, the composite crew from Penn AC Athletic Club and the Schuylkill Navy of Charles Anderson, Justin Keen, Eliot Putnam, and Sorin Koszyk finished first in 5:58.29, ahead of the crew from the U.S. men’s Oakland Training Center (5:59.89) and the Green Racing Project/Keble College Boat Club/Gainesville Area Rowing composite entry of Matt O’Leary, Jacob Plihal, Lucas Bellows, and Travis Taffe (6:12.40).
“It was tough out there, pretty cold at the starting line, pretty stiff crosswind,” said Keen. “But we found a pretty good rhythm in the second one thousand and now we’re just trying to get faster each day.
“We’ve been doing really well coming into this race,” he said. “We had a three-month camp in Florida and a couple of good rows in Philly so we’re feeling good. We’re taking it one day at a time. We have the heats tomorrow, and then we have a couple of days between that to tune-up for the finals.”
The quads and the men’s pair are rowing for the chance to compete at the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta in Lucerne, Switzerland next month. The men’s pair is an uncontested event being rowed by Tom Peszek and Michael DiSanto from the U.S. men’s training center.
Results can be found here.