U.S. Men’s and Women’s Eights Win Heats on Wednesday at 2018 World Rowing Championships

PLOVDIV, Bulgaria – In the span of about 20 minutes on Wednesday morning, the U.S. men’s and women’s eights showed that they have the speed needed to contend for the top of the medal stand later this week at the 2018 World Rowing Championships.

Both crews clocked the fastest times of the day in their events and used heat victories to advance directly to Sunday’s finals, highlighting the fourth day of racing in Plovdiv.

In a photo-finish decided by about a bow-ball, the men’s eight of Alex Karwoski (Moultonborough, N.H.), Glenn Ochal (Philadelphia, Pa.), Tom Peszek (Farmington Hills, Mich.), Tom Dethlefs (Lawrenceville, N.J.), Conor Harrity (Weston, Mass.), Mike DiSanto (Boston, Mass.), Andrew Reed (Wayland, Mass.), Patrick Eble (Fort Washington, Pa.) and coxswain Julian Venonsky (Malvern, Pa.) bested Australia by 0.05 seconds to win its heat and set a new World Championships’ Best Time in the process, missing a world record by 0.52 seconds.

“It was a fun race – a lot of boats out there going pretty quick,” said Ochal, a two-time Olympian. “We’re really happy that we executed the race as we wanted and came out on top. We just need to trust in whatever Mike wants us to do – go out there and get a couple of sharp rows in and get ready for the final. We know it’s going to be just as tight in the final and that’s the exciting part.”

With two to go to the final, the U.S., Australia and Great Britain made it a three-boat race early on, with the U.S. holding about a half-second advantage on its two challengers at the 1,000-meter mark. The Americans and Australians began to put some distance between themselves and the British crew over the third 500 meters, before Australia took a slight advantage on the U.S. heading into the final quarter of the race. The two crews battled each other over the final 500 meters all the way through the finish line, as the U.S. ended up on the right side of the photo. At the line, the U.S. had clocked a 5:19.20, with Australia recording a 5:19.25. Both crews moved on to Sunday’s final.

“That was our first race that we’ve kind of been next to other boats, so being in the middle of it, having a race on our hands, was just really fun,” Venonsky said. “We’ve kind of been on our own in California, but it’s great to be here around all of these great crews. Australia, Great Britain – they’re fast crews and to be with them is just exciting.”

In the second heat, the defending world championships from Germany beat the Italians by 1.42 seconds to win the race in a 5:22.88. Both crews also advanced to the final.

After seeing its unprecedented streak of 11 consecutive gold medals end last year with a fourth-place finish at the world championships in Sarasota, Fla., the U.S. women’s eight showed that it is back in top form after winning its opening heat on Wednesday to advance directly to Sunday’s final.

The crew of Kristine O’Brien (Massapequa Park, N.Y.), Felice Mueller (Cleveland, Ohio), Vicky Opitz (Middleton, Wis.), Gia Doonan (Rochester, Mass.), Dana Moffat (Manlius, N.Y.), Tracy Eisser (Fair Lawn, N.J.), Emily Regan (Buffalo, N.Y.), Olivia Coffey (Watkins Glen, N.Y.) and coxswain Katelin Guregian (Detroit, Mich.) got off the line strong, taking the early lead over China in the first 500 meters and then building more than a three-second advantage on The Netherlands at the midway point of the race.

While the Dutch crew tried to cut away at the lead, the U.S. boat refused to give back more than a seat over the second half of the race. At the line, the U.S. had crossed in a 5:56.68. The Netherlands finished second in a 5:59.51, followed by China and Canada. In the second heat, Australia defeated Great Britain by just under two seconds with a time of 6:02.38.

“It felt really awesome,” said Guregian, who returns with Regan from the 2016 Olympic eight and last year’s crew. “Just from the first stroke, we were really internal. We executed our intentions all the way down the race course. I think the best way that we operate is the way that we race, which is to stay internal – focus on the person in front, focus on what is happening in this stroke, on what is happening on this day or at this practice. That’s how we improve and we get better.”

PR1 women’s single sculler Hallie Smith (Washington, D.C.) will race in a repehage on Friday after finishing second in her heat. Defending world silver medalist Moran Samuel of Israel won the race, leading from start to finish. Smith got off the line in second and held that position the entire way down the course. Samuel finished with a time of 10:58.15, setting a short-lived new World Championships’ Best Time. Smith finished second in an 11:12.29. In the other heat, Norway’s Birgit Skarstein bested Samuel’s time by nearly 32 seconds, clocking a 10:26.38 to earn the victory.

In the repechage of the lightweight women’s quadruple sculls, the crew of Hillary Saeger (Dedham, Mass.), Margaret Bertasi (London, England), Christine Cavallo (Windermere, Fla.) and Michaela Copenhaver (Berkeley, Calif.) finished second to qualify for Friday’s medal race. After getting off the line in fourth, the U.S. overtook Great Britain in the middle 1,000 meters and Germany in the final quarter of the race to earn a spot in the final. Denmark and Germany traded places at the front of the field through the 1,500-meter mark before the Germans dropped to fourth in the final leg. Denmark won the race in a 6:31.09, with the U.S. finishing in a 6:33.40.

In the lightweight men’s quadruple sculls, the U.S. crew of James Nelson (Austin, Texas), Alexander Loy (Ballston Lake, N.Y.), Sam Hausmann (Buffalo, N.Y.) and Michael Landuyt (Grosse Pointe, Mich.) finished fourth in the repechage and now will race in a B final for places 7-12. Turkey and Ireland battled for the top position through the halfway point before the Turkish crew took a big move to establish a comfortable lead. The U.S. sat in fifth through the first three-quarters of the race before moving past Algeria. Turkey won in a 5:51.12, with Ireland finishing second to claim the other qualifying sport for the final. The U.S. finished in a 6:03.66.

The U.S. also raced for lane assignments in five preliminary races on Wednesday morning.

The PR3 women’s pair of Danielle Hansen (Patterson, Calif.) and Jaclyn Smith (Williston Park, N.Y.) was scheduled to take on Italy in a two-boat race. However, the Italian crew withdrew, leaving the U.S. to compete against the clock in the debut of the event at the world championships. Hansen, who is also competing in the PR3 mixed four with coxswain, and Smith finished with a time of 7:44.26. The duo will get another trip down the course, as they will get the chance to race in the C final of the women’s pair on Saturday.

In the return of the lightweight women’s pair to the international race program, the U.S. boat of Jennifer Sager (Philadelphia, Pa.) and Jillian Zieff (Wayland, Mass.) finished second behind Italy in its preliminary race. The Italians led a tight race through the 1,000-meter mark before pulling away. Italy finished with a time of 7:19.85, with the U.S. crossing in a 7:26.95. The two crews will race head-to-head again in Friday’s final.

The lightweight men’s pair of David O. Smith (Seattle Wash.) and Tom Foster (New York, N.Y.) finished third in its race for lanes behind Italy and Greece. The Italians took the early lead with the U.S. boat challenging through 500 meters. Italy continued to push away from its two competitors over the middle of the race. Italy won in a 6:43.84, with the U.S. coming home in a 7:36.28.

In the PR3 mixed double sculls preliminary race, national team newcomers Joshua Boissoneau (Bedford, N.H.) and Pearl Outlaw (Charlottesville, Va.) finished fifth. Russia led off the start before Brazil put on a strong move to take the top spot during the second 500 meters. Brazil won the race in a 7:41.10, with Austria finishing second. Boissoneau and Outlaw finished with a time of 8:36.83 and will race Brazil, Austria, Germany and Russia again in Friday’s final.

In the PR2 women’s single sculls, Laura Goodkind (Los Angeles, Calif.), who is also racing in the PR2 mixed double sculls, finished sixth in her preliminary race. France’s Perle Bouge led from start to finish, winning with a time of 9:30.82. Goodkind, who finished in a 10:39.30, will take on the same scullers from France, The Netherlands, Poland, Ukraine and Brazil during Friday’s final.

Wednesday afternoon’s racing was suspended due to unfair racing conditions, so the men’s double sculls, men’s pair and men’s single sculls will try to race again on Thursday starting at 8:45 a.m.

In the men’s double sculls, John Graves (Cincinnati, Ohio) and Ben Davison (Inverness, Fla.) finished third in their heat and will race against Greece, Switzerland and Poland in the first of four repechages, needing a top-two finish to advance to the semifinals.

The men’s pair of Michael Colella (Kensington, Md.) and Anders Weiss (Barrington, R.I.) advanced to the quarterfinals thanks to a fourth-place finish in its heat. Colella and Weiss will take on The Netherlands, South Africa, Croatia, Spain and Ukraine in the second quarterfinal. The top three finishers will advance to the semifinals.

Men’s single sculler Kevin Meador (Berkeley, Calif.) won his repechage on Monday to reach the quarterfinals. With the top three advancing to the semifinals, the American will row against scullers from France, Israel, Norway, Serbia and the Czech Republic in the second quarterfinal. Czech sculler Ondrej Synek is the defending world champion.

The U.S. will have eight additional crews racing on Thursday, including seven vying for spots in the finals.

In the lightweight men’s single sculls, Andrew Campbell (New Canaan, Conn.) finished second in his heat. Campbell will take on scullers from Canada, Germany, France, Great Britain and Australia in the second semifinal on Thursday. Canada and Germany are coming off of victories in their respective heats. The top three finishers will advance to the final.

In the lightweight women’s single sculls, Michelle Sechser (Folsom, Calif.) also finished second in her heat to advance to Thursday’s semifinals. Sechser will race against scullers from Great Britain, Canada, Poland, Russia and The Netherlands in the first of two semifinals, with the top three finishers moving on to the final. Great Britain and Canada won their heats.

The women’s pair of Vicky Opitz (Middleton, Wis.) and Gia Doonan (Rochester, Mass.), who are doubling up in the eight, will take on crews from Ireland, Great Britain, Spain, Italy and Russia in the second of two semifinals. Great Britain is the lone heat winner in the race. The top three crews will earn a spot in the medal race.

The lightweight women’s double sculls duo of Emily Schmieg (Philadelphia, Pa.) and Mary Jones (Huntsville, Ala.) won its heat to advance to the semifinals. With three to advance, Schmieg and Jones will take on South Africa, Australia, Romania, Canada and Switzerland in the first semifinal. South Africa also won its heat.

The women’s four of Erin Reelick (Brookfield, Conn.), Molly Bruggeman (Dayton, Ohio), Erin Boxberger (Overland Park, Kan.) and Madeline Wanamaker (Neenah, Wis.) held off a late charge from China to win its heat and advance directly to Thursday’s semifinals. The crew will race against Australia, Russia, New Zealand, Great Britain and The Netherlands in the first semifinal, needing a top-three finish to reach the final. Australia also won its heat.

The women’s quadruple sculls crew of Elizabeth Sonshine (Short Hills, N.J.), Emily Huelskamp (Sainte Genevieve, Mo.), Maureen McAuliffe (Herndon, Va.) and Kara Soucek (McCall, Idaho) advanced to Thursday’s semifinals thanks to a third-place finish in its heat. With three to advance, the crew will take on Australia, China, Great Britain, Belarus, and Romania in the second semifinal. China is the lone heat winner in the race.

In the men’s quadruple sculls, Erik Frid (Madbury, N.H.), Michael Knippen (Germantown, Wis.), Gregory Ansolabehere (Bakersfield, Calif.) and Justin Keen (Hatfield, Pa.) finished sixth in their heat and will race in the second of two repechages on Thursday. The U.S. boat will compete against Lithuania, Australia, France and New Zealand, with the top two earning spots in the final.

The men’s four of Alexander Richards (Watertown, Mass.), Michael Clougher (Canton, Mass.), Nick Mead (Strafford, Pa.) and Dariush Aghai (Skokie, Ill.) finished third in its repechage en route to Thursday’s C/D semifinals. The crew will race against Denmark and Russia for the opportunity to advance to the C final, needing a top two finish.

Close to 950 athletes from 62 countries are scheduled to race in Plovdiv. The U.S. has the largest team, with entries in 27 of the 29 events across. The eight-day regatta offers racing in the men’s and women’s single sculls, lightweight single sculls, double sculls, lightweight double sculls, pair, lightweight pair, quadruple sculls, lightweight quadruple sculls, four and eight, as well as the para-rowing men’s and women’s PR1 single sculls, men’s and women’s PR2 single sculls, PR2 mixed double sculls, PR3 mixed double sculls and the PR3 mixed four with coxswain.

Racing runs through Sunday, September 16. Finals will take place over the last three days, beginning on Friday, September 14.

Complete press coverage, athlete bios and links to event information are available at www.usrowing.org and www.worldrowing.com. Photo galleries are available each day at www.usrowing.photos. Follow along with the U.S. National Team at the 2018 World Rowing Championships by using the hashtags #WRChamps and #WRC2018.

World Rowing recently partnered with NBC Sports Group for coverage of the World Rowing Cups, European Championships and World Championships for the next three years.

The Olympic Channel television network will broadcast the final four days of the event live, while NBCSN will broadcast a highlight show on Friday and Sunday night. Racing also will be streamed live via authentication on the Olympic Channel (OlympicChannel.com) and the Olympic Channel app. Click here for the most up-to-date broadcast schedule.

Live-streaming will not be available on www.worldrowing.com, but the VOD clips will be available 24 hours after the event.

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