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A Roller Coaster Spring and A Trip to Lucerne

June 28, 2013

WEST WINDSOR, N.J. – Matt Miller and Willie Cowles and the scullers at the Potomac Boat Club have been riding a rollercoaster of emotion since early spring.

After winning the second national selection regatta in the men’s double sculls in May, Miller (West Springfield, Va.) and Cowles (Farmington, Conn.) decided to pass on an opportunity to race in one of the remaining two world rowing cups and a chance to earn a spot on the U.S. team that will compete in the world championships this summer.

A top four finish at either of the final two world cups would have earned Miller and Cowles a nomination to the team heading to the 2013 World Rowing Championships August 25-September 1, in Chungju, South Korea.

What they wanted instead was to come back for the men’s quad trials this week with two other Potomac Boat Club teammates, win, and be named to the world championship squad in a larger team boat. But that didn’t happen.

Miller and Cowles, along with Sam Stitt (McLean, Va.) and Thomas Graves (Cincinnati, Ohio) won the race for lanes, but then came second to the California Boat Club entry of Hans Struzyna (Seattle, Wash.), Andrew Gallagher (Phoenix, Ariz.), Derek Johnson (Hillsborough, Calif.) and Ryan Shelton (Wrightwood, Conn.).  

And now, after learning that the California crew was not planning to race in the final world cup, the Potomac plan is to bring the quad back together to represent the U.S. at the Samsung World Rowing Cup # 3 in Lucerne, Switzerland, July 12-14 and then bring whichever double proves the best combination from the four scullers to race at the Senior World Championship Trials, August 4-7 on Mercer Lake.

And they will have a lot to choose from considering that the top three finishers in the 2013 USRowing National Championships men’s double finals today were Potomac crews.

Graves and Stitt won the event in a time of 6:23.74, followed in second by Cowles and Miller in 6:25.94 and in third by Greg Ansolabehere (Bakersfield, Calif.) and Taylor Frankin in 6:33.13.

Then, after racing the double, Cowles, Miller, Stitt and Graves went back out and won another national championship in the men’s quad event. Miller also raced in the men’s single, finishing fourth.

“What we will do is take the quad over to race with Willie, Matt, Tom and Sam,” said Potomac coach Reilly Dampeer. “I petitioned to go once I found out that (California) wasn’t going.

“USRowing has no problem with us representing the U.S. in Lucerne,” she said. “It doesn’t bring us any closer to Korea, but it is an opportunity to race in this lineup and they all feel strongly that that’s what they want to do.”

The reasoning behind the decision to take the quad to Lucerne was about development, Dampeer said. Both Stitt and Graves have time on the national team and have raced internationally. Both were part of the 2011 U.S. team that raced in Bled, Slovenia.

“Matt and Willie feel that this is a better experience for them in the long run,” Dampeer said. “Sam and Tom have made it more interesting for the double. This was a lot of racing for Matt with the single, double and quad. But it’s great.

“I’m thrilled that they are going to able to race together. Taking the experience of Tom and Sam in a team boat to a venue that Matt and Willie have never been to before is part of the decision.”

For Cowles, the spring has definitely had its challenges, but overall, he is pleased.

“There’s been a lot of learning,” he said. “It’s been great so far. There have been some ups and downs. I didn’t do as well as I wanted at NSR #1, and then we had a great performance at NSR #2 and then we were disappointed at the result of quad trials. But I think for this year, it’s been good overall.

“It’s just a great learning experience,” he said. “Looking at what Matt and I stand to gain for going to Lucerne. That is primarily for down the road, a year down the road, three years down the road, whatever. Going in the quad with some more experienced athletes will be good.”

Ed Moran ed@usrowing.org

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