Women’s Four Wins Semifinal, Five Crews Advance on Thursday at 2018 World Rowing Championships

PLOVDIV, Bulgaria – The women’s four won its semifinal in wire-to-wire fashion, while four other crews earned spots in the finals to highlight Thursday’s racing for the United States at the 2018 World Rowing Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.

In addition to the four, the lightweight women’s double sculls, lightweight men’s single sculls, lightweight women’s single sculls and women’s quadruple sculls all qualified for their respective finals through today’s semifinal races.

The women’s four of Madeline Wanamaker (Neenah, Wis.), Erin Boxberger (Overland Park, Kan.), Molly Bruggeman (Dayton, Ohio) and Erin Reelick (Brookfield, Conn.) held off a late challenge by Australia to win the first of two semifinals in advancing to Saturday’s final. The U.S. and Russia jumped out on the rest of the field in the early going before the Americans used a strong second 500 to build nearly a length advantage at the midway point. Russia and Australia, the defending world champions, cut the lead in half over the next 500 meters, but the U.S. boat was able to maintain that advantage over the final sprint to earn the victory.

“I think we’ve had a few really great races and that we’re continuing to get faster every race,” Boxberger said. “That’s our goal, and we’re going to continue to do that. I’m proud of our group and no matter the result, we’re going to leave it all out there. That’s all you can ask for.”

At the line, the U.S. finished with a time of 6:41.10, with Australian clocking a 6:42.28. Russia dropped to third, securing the other qualifying spot. The three crews will be joined by Denmark, Poland and China in the final.

“We made some good improvements this week, and we’re just hoping to continue to build off of that and find a little extra speed for the final,” Reelick said.

In the first semifinal of the lightweight women’s double sculls, the U.S. duo of Emily Schmieg (Philadelphia, Pa.) and Mary Jones (Huntsville, Ala.) were nipped at the line by the defending champions from Romania, Ionela-Livia Cozmiuc and Gianina-Elena Beleaga, but still finished second to advance to Saturday’s final. Schmieg and Jones rocketed off the start, taking the early lead on a tight field that saw five crews cross the 500-meter mark within a boat-length of each other. In the second 500, Romania and Switzerland separated themselves from the remaining crews to take control of the other two qualifying spots. The U.S. continued to hold a half-deck lead on Romania at the midway point and pushed the advantage to about one seat with 500 meters to go.

But, the defending world champions used a strong sprint to pass the Americans in the final 250 meters. At the line, Romania crossed in a 6:59.23, with Schmieg and Jones finishing in a 6:59.95. Switzerland finished third. The three crews will take on The Netherlands, New Zealand and Great Britain in the final.

“We were super pleased with how we attacked the race and brought it all to the line,” Schmieg said. “We’re very excited to be moving forward to the final.”

In the lightweight men’s single sculls, Andrew Campbell (New Canaan, Conn.) easily qualified for Friday’s final thanks to a second-place finish in the second of two semifinals. Germany’s Jason Osborne, who set a World’s Best Time in the heat, got off the line quickly, establishing more than a boat-length lead on the field in the first 500 meters, with Campbell and Canada’s Aaron Lattimer taking command of the other two qualifying spots. Campbell cut Osborne’s lead to a half-boat length at the midway point of the race, but the German was able to push his advantage to a length coming into the final 500 meters.

The American made another push to try to track down Osborne, but came up a half-length short. Osborne won the race in a 6:52.97, with Campbell finishing in a 6:53.65. Lattimer finished third. The three will be joined by scullers from Switzerland, Hungary and China in tomorrow’s final.

“I was happy with how I executed the piece” Campbell said. “Conditions were pretty fair. I got off to a much better start than I did in the heat, so it was nice that I didn’t have to claw my way back quite as much. I have a little over 24 hours now to recover – feeling pretty good now. I’ve been practicing going two hard days in a row all summer, so I feel well prepared for this.”

In the first semifinal of the lightweight women’s single sculls, Michelle Sechser (Folsom, Calif.) also finished second to advance to Friday’s final. The Netherlands’ Martine Veldhuis took the race out hard, gaining more than a boat-length advantage on Great Britain’s Imogen Grant in the first 500 meters of the race. Sechser, who got off the line in fourth, quickly moved into third position at the first split and used a strong second 500 meters to take the lead from Veldhuis as the scullers reached the halfway point.

As Veldhuis began to drop off the pace, Grant picked up her rating in an effort to track down the U.S. sculler. While Sechser still held a small lead going into the final 500 meters, Grant’s pace was too much as she pulled away from the American down the stretch. Grant won the race in a 7:43.01, with Sechser holding off a late charge from Canada’s Jill Moffatt to finish in a 7:44.84. The three scullers will race against Belarus, France and Italy in the final.

“It was a really fun race,” Sechser said. “(My coach and I) were able to kind of expose a couple of things in the heat and pick some things to work on and improve throughout the regatta. We’ve still got a few more things to bring together before the final tomorrow. It’s always just about putting down a race you’re really proud of and knowing that you left it all out there on the lake and there was nothing else you could have done to perform even a tenth of a second faster. It’s always a good feeling.”

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 Saturday’s final thanks to a third-place finish in the second of two semifinals. China led off the start with four crews in contact as the boats passed the 500-meter mark. Over the second quarter of the race, the U.S. made a move to try to stick with China and gain some separation on the rest of the field. The Americans continued to row in second position into the third 500 before Great Britain overtook them with about 750 meters to go. China continued to hold its advantage over the final quarter, crossing the line in a 6:26.49 to earn the victory. Great Britain took second, with the U.S. finishing ahead of a charging Australia crew with a time of 6:30.26.

“It felt good. Tough, but we knew it was going to be tough,” Huelskamp said. “We were proud of the race we were able to put together and proud that we were able to show the work that we have put in this summer. It feels great to be in the final. We’re very, very pleased with our performance and that we were able to do this as a boat together.”

The women’s pair of Vicky Opitz (Middleton, Wis.) and Gia Doonan (Rochester, Mass.), who are doubling up in the eight, just missed a spot in the final after finishing fourth in the second of two semifinals. Italy took the lead from Great Britain just before the midway point of the race, with Spain rowing in third position about a half-length down on the leaders. The U.S. sat in fourth, another half-length down. Italy began to pull away from Great Britain over the third 500 meters, as Spain began to close the gap on second and the U.S. tried to keep pace.

Going into the final quarter of the race, Ireland had started its sprint and was quickly closing the gap with the top four crews. The Irish boat first passed the U.S. and a faltering British crew before setting its sights on the leaders. At the line, Ireland came back to win by 0.32 seconds, clocking a 7:14.67. Italy held off Spain by for second place, while the U.S. finished in fourth with a time of 7:16.61. The U.S. will now race in a B final on Saturday against Great Britain, Russia, Australia, Ukraine and Hungary for overall places 7-12.

Erik Frid (Madbury, N.H.), Michael Knippen (Germantown, Wis.), Gregory Ansolabehere (Bakersfield, Calif.) and Justin Keen (Hatfield, Pa.) finished fifth in the second repechage of the men’s quadruple sculls and will now race in the B final for overall places 7-12. The U.S. quartet had a strong start, sitting just 0.12 seconds off the Australian’s early pace. The field was still tight at the halfway point, with Lithuania and the U.S. in a virtual dead heat for third behind Australia and New Zealand. Over the back half of the race, New Zealand and Australia traded the top spot before Australia pulled back ahead for the victory with a time of 5:42.81. New Zealand finished 0.40 seconds behind to earn the second qualifying spot for the final, with Lithuania another 0.49 seconds behind. The U.S. finished with a time of 5:55.03 and will take on Lithuania, France, Great Britain, Germany and Russia in Saturday’s B final.

The men’s four of Alexander Richards (Watertown, Mass.), Michael Clougher (Canton, Mass.), Nick Mead (Strafford, Pa.) and Dariush Aghai (Skokie, Ill.) won its C/D semifinal to advance to Saturday’s C final for overall places 13-18. The crew trailed Russia though 750 meters before taking the lead into the second half of the race. At the line, the Americans finished with a time of 6:02.40, with Russia finishing second.

After finishing third in their repechage of the men’s double sculls Thursday morning, John Graves (Cincinnati, Ohio) and Ben Davison (Inverness, Fla.) came back to win their C/D semifinal. The crew led the entire way down the course, finishing with a time of 6:26.84. Slovenia finished second. Graves and Davison will race in the C final for places 13-18 on Sunday.

The men’s pair of Michael Colella (Kensington, Md.) and Anders Weiss (Barrington, R.I.) finished fourth in its morning quarterfinal before coming back to win a C/D semifinal in the afternoon. Colella and Weiss led through the first 1,400 meters before Poland took a slight advantage moving into the final stretch. However, the U.S. boat didn’t give in, edging out Poland in the final 50 meters to win in a 6:40.73. Poland finished 0.20 seconds back. The U.S. will race in the C final on Saturday.

Men’s single sculler Kevin Meador (Berkeley, Calif.) finished fifth in both his morning quarterfinal and afternoon C/D semifinal. He will now race in Saturday’s D final for places 19-24.

In addition to the two lightweight single scullers who reached tomorrow’s finals during today’s racing, the U.S. will have 10 more crews competing on Friday, including five in medal races.

The lightweight women’s quadruple sculls crew of Hillary Saeger (Dedham, Mass.), Margaret Bertasi (London, England), Christine Cavallo (Windermere, Fla.) and Michaela Copenhaver (Berkeley, Calif.) finished second in its repechage to qualify for Friday’s medal race. The crew will race against heat winners Italy and China, as well as Denmark, Great Britain and Germany in the final.

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 two crews will race again during Friday’s finals.

The lightweight men’s pair of David O. Smith (Seattle Wash.) and Tom Foster (New York, N.Y.) finished third in its preliminary race for lanes behind Italy and Greece. The three crews will race for the medals on Friday.

In the PR3 mixed double sculls preliminary race, national team newcomers Joshua Boissoneau (Bedford, N.H.) and Pearl Outlaw (Charlottesville, Va.) finished fifth. Boissoneau and Outlaw will race against 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. Goodkind will take on the same scullers from France, The Netherlands, Poland, Ukraine and Brazil during Friday’s final.

Three U.S. boats will race in semifinals on Friday. Defending world championships silver medalists Meghan O’Leary (Baton Rouge, La.) and Ellen Tomek (Flushing, Mich.) finished second in their heat of the women’s double sculls to advance directly to Friday’s semifinals. The duo will take on New Zealand, The Netherlands, Germany, China and Greece in the second of two semis. New Zealand is the lone heat winner in the race. The top three finishers will advance to the final.

Women’s single sculler Kara Kohler (Clayton, Calif.) won her heat with a dominant second half of her race to earn a spot in Friday’s semifinals. Kohler will race scullers from Switzerland, Austria, Australia, Ukraine and New Zealand in the second of two semis. Switzerland’s Jeannine Gmelin, the defending world champion, has won all four major international regattas this year and is the other heat winner in Kohler’s semifinal.

PR1 men’s single sculler Blake Haxton (Columbus, Ohio) advanced to the semifinals thanks to a second-place finish in his heat. Haxton will race against scullers from Ukraine, Great Britain, Poland, Lithuania and Belgium for a spot in the final. Ukraine and Great Britain are the two heat winners in the race.

PR1 women’s single sculler Hallie Smith (Washington, D.C.) will race in a repechage on Friday after finishing second in her heat. She will take on scullers from Germany, Japan, Italy, Canada and Sweden, with the top four advancing to Sunday’s final.

In the lightweight men’s quadruple sculls, the 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 the B final for places 7-11. The U.S. will take on Norway, Algeria, Hungary and Spain.

Close to 950 athletes from 62 countries are racing 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, with finals beginning Friday.

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 through NBC Sports online, or through the NBC Sports app, which is available on the iTunes App Store, Google Play, Windows Store, Roku Channel Store, Apple TV and Amazon Fire.

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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