PHOTO AND STORY COURTESY USROWING
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Seven boats earned spots on this year’s world championships’ team on Saturday at the 2023 USRowing Senior National Team Trials on Mercer Lake in West Windsor, N.J. Athletes earned the right to represent the U.S. at the 2023 World Rowing Championships scheduled for September 3-10 in Belgrade, Serbia.
In the women’s double sculls, the Texas Rowing Center/ARION composite crew of Sophia Vitas and Kristi Wagner earned its spot on the national team thanks to a six-second victory over the Cambridge Boat Club duo of Mary Jones Nabel and Michelle Sechser. Vitas and Wagner, who finished fifth in the event at last year’s world championships and won a silver medal at this season’s second World Rowing Cup regatta, finished in a time of 6:53.72. Jones Nabel and Sechser, who were recently selected to represent the U.S. in the lightweight women’s double sculls in Belgrade, finished second with a time of 7:00.11, with the Long Beach Rowing Association/ARION composite crew of Maddy Focht and Veronica Nicacio, who will represent the U.S. in the event at the 2023 Pan American Games, crossing third in a 7:08.35. Vitas will be racing on her fourth senior national team, while Wagner will be racing on her third senior team.
New York Athletic Club’s Eliot Putnam won the final in the men’s single sculls over California Rowing Club’s Andrew LeRoux by more than seven seconds. Putnam clocked a 6:50.77, with LeRoux finishing in a 6:57.99. Craftsbury Green Racing Project’s Jacob Plihal finished third.
“It’s a blur,” said Putnam of the race. “The first 600 (meters) was a little choppy, so I just tried to get to the land (on the starboard side) as quickly as possible. I had a pretty decent start, and I just tried to stay as consistent as possible throughout the middle. I wasn’t too worried about the stroke rate. I was just trying to go off feel, go off boat speed, and just not let up.”
Putnam raced on the under 23 team in 2017 and last represented the U.S. in the quadruple sculls at the 2021 World Rowing Final Olympic Qualification Regatta.
“I’m super excited” said Putnam of making the team. “My last team was in 2021 for the final Olympic qualifier. The last two years I’ve been in law school, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it back on the national team, so I’m just super happy, super grateful.”
In the men’s pair, the Penn AC/California Rowing Club composite boat of Evan Olson and William Bender finished more than four seconds ahead of CRC’s Nick Rusher and Gus Rodriguez. Olson and Bender finished with a time of 6:32.02, with Rusher and Rodriguez crossing in a 6:36.24. Andrew Tokarski and William Stavropoulos finished third. Bender raced at the 2021 World Rowing Under 23 Championships, while Olson is a two-time U23 team member.
“The race was good. We did a really good job of executing our race plan,” Bender said. “I’m obviously really excited about making the team. It became clear to me this summer that it’s a totally different level than college or U23, and I’m stoked to get a chance to compete with, and against, all of these really talented guys.”
New York Athletic Club’s Sam Melvin also earned his first senior national team berth by winning the final of the lightweight men’s single sculls. Melvin, who won the event at the 2019 World Rowing Under 23 Championships, finished more than six seconds ahead of Texas Rowing Center’s Jasper Liu, a two-time national team member. Melvin clocked a 6:54.21, with Liu crossing in a 7:00.44. Craftsbury’s Cooper Tuckerman finished third in a 7:05.64.
“I just tried to get into my own rhythm and just stick to my race plan – try to have a good piece all the way through and get a gauge for what my true speed is,” Melvin said. “I think I got that from this morning. I have a base that I can now just try to replicate. I know what I’m shooting for. It’s my first team in four years, my first senior team. It feels good. I’m excited to see what I can do.”
Whitemarsh Boat Club’s Sophia Luwis won the lightweight women’s single sculls by more than seven seconds over teammate Audrey Boersen. Luwis, who won a silver medal in the event earlier this year at World Rowing Cup II and followed that up with a gold medal at World Rowing Cup III, finished with a time of 7:33.13, with Boersen clocking a 7:40.94. King’s Crow Rowing Association’s Liza Ray took third in a 7:41.89. Luwis earned her second national team berth. She made the squad last year in the lightweight women’s quadruple sculls before an injury prevented her from competing.
“I was super nervous beforehand, even more so than all the Europe racing, because this one really meant something and there was something coming after it,” Luwis said. “All the world cup events – you want to do well, you want to perform and represent the U.S. well, but this one – if you don’t do well, you don’t get to keep progressing, so I felt that pressure a little bit. Because so much happens right when you get off the water from boat weighing to doping control, it hasn’t really sunk in. I had a brief moment of ‘Holy … I made the team,’ but I think it will settle in more throughout the rest of the day.”
The Penn AC/Riverside Boat Club/San Diego Rowing Club composite crew of Casey Howshall, Ian Richardson, Bernard Aparicio, and Jamie Copus won the final of the lightweight men’s quadruple sculls by more than 12 seconds, qualifying for Belgrade. The crew finished with a time of 5:57.15. Undine Barge Club’s crew of Dylan Hartwick, Matthew Grieshaber, Pascal Evans, and Rodrigo Silva Urbaneja finished second in a 6:09.78. Richardson was part of the lightweight quad last year, while Copus is a multiple time British National Team member. Howshall and Aparicio both made their first senior national team.
Racing uncontested, the Penn AC lightweight women’s pair of Solveig Imsdahl and Elaine Tierney met the time standard and qualified for the world championships. The defending world championships’ silver medalists finished with a time of 7:31.61 to secure their spot in Belgrade.
In the lightweight men’s pair, Riverside Boat Club’s John Mannion and Christopher Crawley defeated Patrick Rogers and Mark Canniff to win the race. However, the Riverside boat was unable to meet the time standard and did not earn a spot on the national team. Mannion and Crawley finished with a time of 6:51.69. Rogers and Canniff clocked a 7:33.36.
The Conshohocken Rowing Center lightweight women’s quadruple sculls crew of Aislinn O’Brien, Caroline Burchette, Greta Gilbert, and Katrina Miehlbradt raced uncontested but were unable to meet the time standard and did not qualify for Belgrade. The crew finished with a time of 6:55.87.
Likewise, Community Rowing’s Sarah Menefee and Lauren Fish raced uncontested in the PR3 women’s pair but were unable to meet the time standard. Menefee and Fish finished with a time of 8:58.13.
USRowing previously named 15 boats for the world championships. The complete roster, including coaches, alternates, and staff, will be released next week. Click here to see the complete 2023 Senior National Team Selection Procedures.
The 2023 World Rowing Championships are the first opportunity for countries to qualify boats for the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
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.