Twenty-one athletes from Penn AC’s High Performance Team competed in USRowing’s Spring Speed Order 1 held April 18-21 at Mercer Lake, in West Windsor, NJ. The event marked the start of elite racing in the U.S. in 2017, and served as an initial step toward making the U.S. National Team and competing at this year’s World Rowing Championships.
“I had a couple of goals going into this one, particularly on the men’s side,” said Sean Hall, head coach of Penn AC’s High Performance Group. “One: I wanted to get my top guys close or to the top without a lot of race prep, and en masse. The second was that I wanted to create an overwhelming presence… you know, a kind of dominance. I think we adequately achieved both of these.”
“On the light women’s side,” he continued, “I wanted to get at least one performance in the top three, and one or two more in the A Final. We just missed that one but we did come away with the fastest time of the day in the semis.”
The dominance Coach Hall had in mind is evident with one look at the final results. Erik Frid, Lucas Wilhelm and Nathan Lado grabbed 2nd, 4th and 6th place in the Men’s A Final, while Justin Keen, Charles Anderson and Erick Winstead placed 1st, 3rd and 4th in the Men’s B Final. In other words, Penn AC took six of the top 10 spots in the men’s single.
Cara Stawicki and Lauren Klick led the light women with 4th and 6th place finishes in the A Final. Kristen Propst and Mary Mosier grabbed 3rd and 5th in the B Final, earning them 9th and 11th place overall.
When asked about surprising or notable performances, Coach Hall said that there were a few.
“Cara had the fastest time of the day in semis, which I think points to her overall potential to be on top, despite the 4th place finish,” he said. “Meanwhile, Justin missed out on the A Final in a difficult semi when I think he would surely have been top three or four in the final. To be fair, he had some setbacks in the days just before racing but that’s part of the game.”
“Other notable performances would include Nate, who’s been coming on strong lately. As for Erik and Luke… I basically expected those results.”
Frid, on the other hand, was caught by a big surprise when the bolt holding the c-cup [oarlock] to his rigger snapped in half and left him with one oar during the warm-up for the time trial.
“I managed to stay afloat and a race official took me and my boat in [to shore]. I was ready for an array of possibilities—from being disqualified to being let through the time trial. In the end, I rowed at the very end of the time trial, after the lightweights, borrowing Luke Wilhelm’s boat,” he said.
“It’s safe to say that I must have looked like one big lightweight!”
Frid, who won the Prince of Wales Challenge Cup 4x at Royal Henley (racing as part of the Schuylkill Navy High Performance Collaborative) and the Men’s Champ 2x at the Head of the Charles in 2016, said that his goal going into the week was to make the A Final and then give it a go.
“Based on how competitive Luke, Nate and Justin were in practice, I knew that with a wider field, I was going to have to establish some speed in every round of competition,” he said. “I think we had a really good month of training in Florida. Lots of competitive pieces and I felt like it was enough time to establish good technique.”
Hall also said he felt good about the team’s preparation leading into the week and noted that he chose to forego a big taper for this round.
“I told everyone that we were kind of training through this one… I wanted them to see they could perform even when not feeling tip-top. There wasn’t a lot riding on this race,” he said.
In past years, the race, previously called National Selection Regatta 1, afforded the winners of each boat class an opportunity to compete in a World Cup as part of the overall selection process for the national team. The year, the race has no direct impact on national team selection and instead served as an early season opportunity to assess speed.
“As I said, there wasn’t a lot riding on this race other than to see where we stand at this point time,” Hall reiterated. “It’s a long season… This regatta was more about participation in this year’s Schuylkill Navy Collaborative. It had more bearing on being included in that selection pool than for anything related to World’s.”
The collaborative Hall is referring to is a partnership among the various clubs on Boathouse Row meant to give athletes more opportunities to come together and make the fastest boats possible to race abroad. Selection for Schuylkill Navy boats on the men’s side began immediately after Speed Order 1; selection on the women’s side will start after Speed Order 2.
Speed Order 2 will be contested in doubles on May 20-23 at Mercer Lake. Preparation in the bigger boats has already begun, Hall and Frid both noted. The goal, according to Hall, is straightforward: “Basically, we are looking to have another overwhelming presence at a USRowing regatta.”