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U.S. Junior Women Take Three Silver and Make History in Two Events

August 18, 2012

PLOVDIV, Bulgaria – Christine Cavallo was flat on her back on the benches where the athletes wait to get their medals. Medical attendants were holding bags of ice on her head and neck and checking her pulse.

Whenever anyone near enough for Cavallo to hear asked about her, Cavallo answered, “I’m fine.”

About 30-feet away, Kathryn Brown stood alone on the medal’s dock with an American flag draped across her shoulders. As the ceremony was about to start, Brown just kept looking over at Cavallo, pleading with her eyes for her to get and up join her.

With just moments to spare, Cavallo stood and with the help of team physician, Kate Ackerman, made her way across the walkway and was met by Brown, who gently wrapped her arm and the flag across her teammate’s shoulders - just in time for the silver medals to be placed around their necks.

Brown, of Federal Way, Wash., and Cavallo, of Windermere, Fla., had just rowed the United States junior women’s pair to a historic second place finish in the 2012 World Rowing Senior and Junior Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.

No other American women’s junior pair had ever medaled in the event before today and the highest ever finish in the event before today was sixth.

“That was the most amazing experience of my life,” Brown said. “I am so honored to be here right now.”

It was a moment in a day of big moments for the U.S. junior women’s team. Not only had the pair won silver, but the women’s junior quadruple sculls team of Cicely Madden (Weston, Mass.), Alexandra Zadravec (Fairfield, Conn.), Elizabeth Sharis (Bettendorf, Iowa) and Rosemary Grinalds (New York, N.Y.) also took silver and medaled for the first time for the U.S. in that event.

And leading the whole medal parade was the junior women’s four of Kendall Chase (Evergreen, Colo.), Georgia Radcliffe (Vienna, Va.), Deirdre Fitzpatrick (Cheshire, Conn.) and Ruth Narode (Portland, Ore.). They had taken silver in the first of the junior women’s finals. The U.S. won last year and today captured silver with an entirely new lineup.

Three junior women’s finals, three silver medals.

“This is the result of us being one united team, everyone working together,” said head women’s coach Liz Trond, who oversees the women’s program and coaches the four and coordinates with women’s sculling coach Guenter Buetter, who coached the quad and oversees the women scullers.

“It’s an historic regatta for us,” she said. “Seven of the eight women’s boats were in the A final between the junior team and the senior team.”

The medals performances began with the junior women’s four. They had come into the race as medal contenders but knew the Chinese were fast and were going to be hard to beat and that New Zealand was also going to be tough.
 
The Kiwis led off the line followed by China and the U.S.

New Zealand held through the first 500-meters, but were then passed by both China and the U.S. Through the second half of the race, the U.S. was able to keep in contact with China but could not get past them, finishing in second in 6:56.44 to China’s 6:53.10. New Zealand was third in 7:01.36.

“That was awesome,” said Radcliffe. “I thought it was our best race of the week, if not the entire time we’ve been together. We just stayed strong the whole time. We all want to compete at this level because we want to race the best and so China came and they were the best and I’m happy.

“I would rather take a silver with one of the best crews in the world here then take a gold when it’s only half as fast. So China’s amazing and we were happy to race them and have a great race.”

The pair followed the four.

Earlier in the week, the pair was beaten in the heat by Italy and had to come through the repechage to get to the final. Today, Brown and Cavallo went after Italy and led from the second 500-meters right down to the last few hundred meters when Italy, which had started slow, came charging through the U.S. to win in 7:42.46. The U.S. crossed second in 7:47.32 with New Zealand in third in 7:49.51.

It was clear from the when the race ended that Cavallo had expended every once of energy she had. It was a difficult race and it didn’t help that the Plovdiv Channel was a caldron of hot, dry air heated by an unforgiving sun. She had to be helped from the boat to the shaded bench.

The heat also affected New Zealand and only one of their crew was present at the medal presentations.

 “From pretty much the start we were ahead,” said Brown. “We were ahead up until the last two fifty and then Italy got us. But it was such a great race. I’m totally happy with it. We’re in our first year on the national team and sixth place is the best the U.S. has ever done in the pair, so to get second, we’re so, so happy about it.”

The last U.S. final of the day was also an event that the U.S. has never medaled in. Last year at Eton Dorney, England, the quad was fourth and very close to third. This year with 15-year-old Sharis in the mix of the top four women’s single scullers in the country – they finished one through four at the USRowing Youth National Championships this spring – this was a boat destined to make history.

Romania led off the line and the U.S. went after them with New Zealand chasing. The three boats separated from the pack early and stayed in the same positions the length of the 2000-meter course. The U.S. knew New Zealand had speed and were determined not to let them pass.

“Last night we sat down and we were decided we needed to make a change,” said Grinalds. “We wanted to get up on that podium and we rearranged our race plan a little bit. We took a ten to make history at the five hundred meter mark and we moved. And then we took another ten at the third five hundred.

“We knew we had to speed it up. We kept it going and we kept going and we did not let (New Zealand) walk back and that’s what we wanted to do today,” she said.

“It’s super amazing,” said Sharis. “This is the biggest race I’ve ever done and I am so happy to medal. It’s so amazing. It’s worlds.”

In the first medal race of the morning the lightweight senior women quadruple sculls crew of Hillary Saeger (Dedham, Mass.), Michelle Sechser (Folsom, Calif.), Lindsay Hochman (Seattle, Wash.) and Chelsea Smith (Edna, Minn.) raced against Australia, Italy, Poland, Denmark and China.  

The U.S. started down and went through the 500-meter mark in fifth place. They moved back through the pack, but despite the effort they were not able to get into medal position and finished fourth in 6:45.26.

Poland won in 6:36.17. Demark was second in 6:37.82 and Italy was third in 6:39.13.

Tomorrow there should be more good racing with five United States crews racing in finals.

Four of those races were set on Friday, the fifth was added this morning by Mackenzi Sherman (Los Alamitos, Calif.) and Olivia MacLean (Lancaster, Mass.) in the junior women’s double sculls.

After falling out of a qualifying position in the first three quarters of the race, Sherman and MacLean put out a solid final 500-meter sprint to the line to catch and pass Poland and finish third, advancing to the final tomorrow.

Lithuania won in 7:13.30. Germany was second in 7:16.61 with the U.S. following in third in 7:20.73, edging Poland, which finished in 7:20.87. They will row tomorrow at 11:15 a.m. against Lithuania, Germany, Romania, Hungary and France.  

“It just came down to who wanted it more,” MacLean said. “Mackenzi and I have been working all summer for this and we just kept our heads in the boat and went for it. We didn’t look up. We didn’t look over. We just tried as hard as we could and it paid off.  Going into the last five hundred I knew Poland was a strong crew and had a fast last five hundred.

“I was pretty worried that we were not going to be able to catch them, but we just raced our race and hoped for the best.”

Three crews rowed in the B finals this morning, starting with the lightweight senior men’s quad crew of Sam Cunningham (Pittsburgh, Pa.), Dave Smith (Seattle, Wash.), Bob Duff (Huntington Valley, Pa.) and Shane Madden (Ambler, Pa.). They finished second in 6:01.54 to take eighth place overall in the regatta. Japan won the race in a time of 5:59.32.

In the lightweight senior men’s eight, coxswain Eric Rhiel (Menomonie, Wis.), Phil Grisdela (Great Falls, Va.), Ryan Fox (Edgerton, Wis.), Anders Corbett (Staten Island, N.Y.), Martin Forde (Mill Creek Wash.), Nick Dawe (Cincinnati, Ohio), Will Robins (Chappaqua, N.Y.), Sean McKenna (Blue Bell, Pa.) and Andrew Hashway (West Boylston, Mass.) finished third in their B final to finish ninth overall. The Netherlands won the race in 5:47.01. The U.S. finished in 5:50.15.

In the junior men’s four with coxswain, the crew of coxswain Jake Mendelson  (Jacksonville, Fla.), Bradley Plunkett (Darien, Conn.), Samuel Helms (Snohomish, Wash.) and Nathan Smith (Kennett Square, Pa.) finished third to take ninth overall in a time of 6:32.08. Belarus won in 6:22.56.

Following them was the junior men’s four crew of Ryan Hails (Osprey, Fla.), Ben Chuter (Portola Valley, Calif.), Allen Reitz (Long Beach, Calif.) and John Chuter (Portola Valley, Calif.) finished sixth to place 12th overall in 6:25.75. France won the race in 6:23.02.

In other semifinal racing today, the junior men’s pair of Justin Murphy (Montclair, N.J.) and Nathaniel Goodman (Montclair, N.J.), finished sixth in their race and will race tomorrow in the B final at 9:21 a.m. against Croatia, France, Ireland, Poland and Belgium. The U.S. finished in a time of 7:08.03. Hungary won in 6:46.84.

In the junior men’s double sculls, Chase Buchholz (Norfolk, Mass.) and Richard Wagner (Providence, R.I.) came into the regatta on a strong note, won the opening race, but faded early in the semifinal and finished out of the final in fourth place in a time of 6:32.68. Germany won in 6:29.17. Latvia was second in 6:30.92 and Spain finished third in 6:31.32.

They will row in the B final tomorrow at 9:35 a.m. against France, Slovenia, Norway, Serbia and Lithuania.

Rowing in the C final, junior women’s single sculler Nina Vascotto (Huntington, N.Y.) finished third and claimed fifteenth place overall. Racing Norway, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Ukraine and Brazil, Vascotto finished in a time of 8:10.93. Norway won in 8:07.37.

In the men’s junior single sculls, Mink Graham (New Canaan, Conn.) raced in the C final against Ireland, The Netherlands, Australia, Zimbabwe, and Belarus. Graham finished fifth in 7:24.66. Ireland won in 7:10.99.   

 For complete event coverage, schedules and results, visit http://www.usrowing.org/Pressbox/12SrJrWorldsChampions.aspx.


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Ed Moran, photos by Ed Moran

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