Pan Am’s Blog #5: Winstead’s US Men’s 8 Takes Bronze!

by: m_wherley

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Penn AC’s Erick Winstead raced in the US Men’s 8 at the Pan Am Games in St. Catherine’s, Canada this week. Everyone at Penn AC congratulates Erick on his bronze medal!

Here is Erick’s final blog from the Pan Am Games:

7/15/2015 – It’s been a crazy 8 days for me that all culminated in this morning’s Final in the Men’s 8. I’ll save you the suspense if you didn’t already hear…we won Bronze! I say that with a mix of happiness and disappointment. I’m happy because we’re able to take home some hardware, but I’m disappointed because you don’t enter a race to come in 3rd, you enter to win. Everybody reading this knows what it’s like to be a competitor and can relate, so I’ll stop any sort of dejected tone there. I’m really proud of my boat for coming together and giving some very talented competition a good fight.

Cuba was in Lane 1, Brazil in Lane 2, Canada in Lane 3, USA in Lane 4 and Argentina in Lane 5. The conditions were as expected…a stiff headwind, about 15mph, causing very choppy water, especially in the first 1k. We got off to a relatively clean start given the conditions, and were sitting in 2nd place after the first 200 meters. Canada shot out fast, faster than they did in the Heat. Passing the 500, Canada had us by about a length. We were still in 2nd with Argentina starting to find some steam, about half-a-length down on us. Cuba was about three-quarters of a length down on us, with Brazil dropping back.

Passing the 1k, Canada stretched its lead to about a length open. Argentina had started to walk back into us. Our coxswain, Sam, made a call to hold Argentina’s push. We were successful for a couple hundred meters, but by 500 to go, Argentina had drawn even. Canada appeared to be sitting a length open as we fought to reel them back in. I should say there was nothing real pretty about this race, just a good’ole fashioned slugfest into the headwind. Unfortunately the conditions did not suit a crew of our make-up, with a couple lightweights in the bow up against a Canadian crew with some real beef in the middle. But there are no handicaps and we had every intention of spoiling Canada’s party in the Finale.

Sam started calling up the rate with 500 to go. I’d say this is the point in the race where we could’ve been better. Cuba had started to charge up behind Argentina and we knew both boats were moving with better boat speed. Our lift did not happen together. The rate went up, but our boat speed didn’t really improve. We were getting a little frantic, partly because the conditions really beat us up in the first 1k, but mostly because we saw Cuba coming up on us. Argentina continued to take seats and it seemed like we were just trying to hang on for dear life. Our lifts were effective enough that we were able to hold off Cuba, but Argentina had beat us to the line. All the while Canada hadn’t really done much to extend its lead. Canada finished 3 seconds ahead of Argentina who finished two seconds ahead of us.

Like I said, I’m proud of my boat. Canada brought its top guys and we made them sweat despite very limited practice time and a coxswain who arrived the day before the Heat. I will say that Sam deserves a lot of credit, he’s one hell of a coxswain. We grabbed a Bronze and kept the mighty Cuban 1x sculler from getting another medal :). This was a good experience, and my first real taste of international competition. I hope to build from here. I still have a big summer ahead of me, so it’s no time to be content or complacent. I look forward to seeing everybody back in Philly!

Erick

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