2018 USRowing U19 World Rowing Championship Trials (aka Megatrials).
Lake Mercer, New Jersey
Thursday, July 5, 2018
Event #23: Mens U19 1x Final 1
Clarke Dean (USRowing) 7:13.06
William Legenzowski (Maritime) 7:19.31
Maxwell Heid (Seattle Scullers) 7:57.12
In quite the auspicious introduction for a young (week old) program, Seattle Scullers made its competitive debut at quite possibly the most hotly contested regatta taking place on US soil in 2018. With bids up for grabs for every major FISA World Rowing Championship (U19, U23, Senior, Para), the fastest small boat athletes in the country gathered for what turned out to be a thunderous weekend.
First some context: After a bronze medal at Youth Nationals in the 1x, Max showed up at Selection Camp only to face the prospect of immediate elimination as the lineup for the 4x was solidified within days. On their fourth day in Chula Vista, the assembled athletes lined up in three quads for 4 x 1250 m worth of high stakes seat racing. Max seat raced first and won, by 21 seconds! His reward? Another seat race, which he won again, handily! This time, by over 25 seconds.
With two wins and three all-out 1250s under his belt, Max switched into the top boat for the final piece. In his only time rowing the first quad all week and in the midst of his first seat racing experience... ever, Max missed out on making the lineup by 8 seconds.
What an AWESOME performance! Having never seat raced—did I mention this was his first time seat racing?—or even rowed a single stroke with those athletes in the top boat, Max managed to produce his best work time and time again, under intense pressure. These are the types of ‘failures’ every athlete should be so lucky to experience! With a selection camp only sending one double to Trials, Max elected to enter the 1x at Trials.
Fast forward to Thursday, when with little time to prepare, Max found himself in a single again for the first time since the A Final at Youth Nationals—you heard right, zero race prep in the 1x prior to touching down in New Jersey. This time he faced some pretty formidable competition: the defending World U19 Champion and a Youth National Gold Medalist who had been training the 1x hard all summer in an attempt to pick off said defending champ. Both coached by world class professionals with two careers’ worth of international competition between them. This being my first time at Trials, I was just trying to make sure I knew where to find the bow markers!
Max lined up on the first day in a boat he’s never rowed and got beat, bad. Didn’t have his best start, and, in the furthest (unprotected) lane from shore in a brutal cross-wind, fell out of contention early.
They might as well slap it on the signage as you approach the Casperson Training Center: Welcome to Lake Mercer, where nobody cares for your excuses, the conditions especially!
Friday, July 6, 2018
Event #28: Mens U19 1x Final 2
Clarke Dean (USRowing) 7:05.66
William Legenzowski (Maritime) 7:12.47
Maxwell Heid (Seattle Scullers) 7:31.62
After one of the more intense rain delays I’ve seen (the FLASH FLOODING iPhone alert on race day was a new one for me), racing resumed with a condensed schedule, bringing an even greater sense of urgency to the proceedings, if possible. The race plan for Final 2 was simple: hang with the fastest in the world for as long as possible, and let the race unfold from there.
And hang, he did. Through 250 he was about level with the USRowing entry, and up on the Maritime entry. As they approached the 500 m Mark, the two other boats started pulling away steadily and would continue to do so for the remainder of the race.
But, Max still had quite the race on his hands! Coming out of the blocks that hard in the 1x has repercussions: an early arrival to the pain cave. I’ve always wondered what that would be like in the 1x, to totally redline in the opening strokes and then face another 175ish strokes of pure, unrefined and unfiltered neural pain response. In an 8+ (my experience, mostly), you’ve got more than a handful of your brothers/sisters to pick you up in those moments, not to mention the psychological magnetism of never wanting to let those people down.
Max had no one but himself. But, he clearly wasn’t satisfied with hanging for the first 25 strokes. Digging in for the rest of the race, he took everything he could from the face of the blade, and left it on the foot plate. He looked tired coming through my position nestled along the shoreline, somewhere around 300 m to go—real tired. By the time he crossed the finish line, though, Max had closed the margin on both boats... by over 18 seconds each!
As a coach, this is the only expectation I have of any athlete: to get better any time you enter the training or competitive environment. To bring a sense of urgency to the process of self improvement. To devote all attentional energy to this process while becoming comfortable with failure (i.e. the area for improvement ID process). Over 18 seconds from Final 1 to Final 2, with not much more than a night’s rest to separate the two, is a huge improvement. I couldn’t find one of similar magnitude among my crews’ racing history, except for the 2007 SRAA Championship, where the best coxswain I’ve ever coached admittedly forgot how to steer in the heat (Hi Patrick!).
So, over 18 seconds? At a world class regatta? Against the defending U19 Champion?