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Dear Friends, Family, Potomac Boat Club, Potomac Boat Club Supporters, Potomac River Sports Foundation and Supporters:
During the course of the past year, since Margot Shumway and Sarah Trowbridge began their journey in the Women’s Double Sculls, I have stated that, “It takes a village.” This Village enabled Sarah and Margot to win the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta this weekend, earning them a spot on the 2012 Olympic Team. There are a lot of people to whom we cannot say enough Thank Yous. I must start by thanking my wife, Katie, who enables me everyday to “Live the Dream,” while she executes and grows her career in education and takes care of our three wonderful boys.
The PBC team has made the difference in our season, a season that has been full of hard work and overcoming challenges, and a season that began with the PBC Open Sculling Program. I would like to thank Reilly Dampeer, who strengthens the tradition of strong coaches of the Open Scullers, creating the structure of the program, fundraising with the Rising Stars Dinner, and helping Margot, Trow, and all athletes through her coaching knowledge and perspective. I would like to thank Jim O’Conner for his continual support of both me in the launch, and the girls in the boat, along with the entire PBC Open Scullers Squad for competitive and moral encouragement. Sean Gorman gets a special shout out for being the “rabbit” as long as his body could hold out, and through his support at GeoIQ, our employer and where Margot and Trow have both been previously employed.
I would like to thank The Potomac River Sports Foundation, with the leadership of Paul Knight and Eric Meyers, who have provided financial support of our training and qualification process not only now but for years going back. Also, The PBC Board and the leadership of Bob Price and Ed Ryan, who continue to support the structure of the program, the boathouse, our fine fleet and infrastructure.
To the supporters who have financially contributed to our efforts for the squad travels to West Coast Trials/Training, and International efforts and have continued to write the checks that have come in long after the Rising Stars Dinner, we give a special thank you. And to the club as a whole, whose daily encouragement and support on the good mornings and tough mornings makes a difference to all of us.
So, the story…
We are all PBC athletes and coaches. Margot started rowing at the club in 2005, and was in and out of the National Team Camp. Sarah began in 2005, making her first team in 2007. Reilly joined in 2007, transitioned to coaching in 2008, and took over the program in the summer of 2010. And I started in 2001. Each of us developed as athletes and/or coaches at PBC.
After Margot’s win at the Pan Am games in 2011, the discussion went back and forth between the single and the double for months. When Sarah (Trow) came back from Princeton in January 2012, we knew we could have a dynamic and winning combination. After some bumps in the road, injuries, and sickness, we got back, but on a still slightly unsteady track, and it was not enough to win the Non-Qualified Olympic Trials at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista in early April.
Trow and Margot’s W2x placed third in their final, which only let one boat to head to the Final Qualification in Switzerland. For about one hour and 45 min, we all thought that our season was over, until someone from the USRowing staff asked if Margot and Trow were around. I said no and asked why, to which they replied that they may want to come back because the first two boats were declining. Incredulous, I clarified a few times just to make sure, and then called the girls, who also could not believe it.
It turns out, the athletes who beat them were Olympians and US team members, a couple of whom won silver in the Women’s Quad the year before at World’s and wanted the opportunity to compete in the already qualified Quad that continues to have a real shot at a medal. This left the non-qualified double to us. The girls accepted, and shocked and dazed we headed off to discuss the next step over beer and bacon cheeseburgers.
It is so rare at this level that you get a second opportunity of this magnitude, we knew we had been handed a lifeline As a group,we committed to taking advantage of this long shot and working towards improving times and getting more race ready and fit. Between now and Switzerland, we would let no other challenges get in the way of our goal.
I have never seen athletes with such motivation and single-mindedness to succeed. The determination, commitment, attitude and a focus on increasing speed overruled fatigue and any complaints. Times got better with PR’s in San Diego, DC and once in Lucerne, during race prep. After four weeks of hard three-a-day workouts between Potomac, Occoquan and back out to the Training Center in Chula Vista, we headed over to Lucerne ten days ago.
Leading into the heats, there were nerves, probably more mine than Margot’s or Trow’s, but the confidence that we all had in the progress and training was evident in loose pre-race meetings and discussions. In their first race, the heat, the girls executed their plan. They blasted the first 1000m to a five-second lead and raced smart the rest of the way down the course, increasing speed only when the three boats, Spain, Finland and Denmark, all sprinted. In the other heat, the Dutch and the Greeks were three seconds and one second faster than us respectively, and we knew we had our work cut-out to come out in the top two in the six boat final.
In the 48 hours before the final we kept up our same routine we had established and the looseness was still there. In the pre-race talk the day before, Margot even mentioned that if we won, we would be the first US Rowers named to the Olympic Team. Margot and Trow arrived on race day with the same determination we had seen in the four-week lead up. There were no doubts when they launched that they were ready and focused to execute. They did. They rowed an extremely solid race that never wavered. They gained a lead in the first 500, extended in 2nd 500, continued through the third and increased speed when the Netherlands, Spain and Italy pushed. All leading to the Margot Roar and Trow in disbelief of what had just happened. It is a great and satisfying feeling to see your crew on the awards dock being announced as the Olympic Qualifiers for London.
Additionally, yesterday, U.S. team spirit kicked in again right after our race in the double, when the light men’s four, coached by Bryan Volpenhein, Sarah’s boyfriend, came down in an awesome race, ripping the lead from two other boats to qualify. Finally, the men’s eight, led by Mike Teti, and having to qualify for the first time in history, came down the course to ensure that a men’s eight will represent the U.S., as one has in every modern Olympics where rowing has been competed. A great dinner overlooking Lucerne with all of the qualifying boats, coaches and sponsored by Gary Rogers, and attended by several National Rowing Foundation members, created a celebratory evening.
Although this is a great day in a long season, it is just one day, and the goal is still to carry the fire forward to London. As we sit on the plane headed home, we are contemplative and in planning mode for the next steps needed to be successful. We will continue this journey with a nothing to lose attitude and the determination and commitment that it will take. No doubt it will continue to take the support of our Potomac Village to lead us to the Olympic Village.
Other stars of our Potomac Team include Reilly’s boat of Willy and Whelpley, who did extremely well at the Non-Qualified regatta having one of the best races we have seen from a Potomac Boat. PBC’er Sam Stitt and partner Warren Anderson were aggressively pressed the whole way down the course and held-off Willy and Whelpley’s efforts. There was contemplation that Sam and Warren would stay in the priority and qualified Quad, which would open the Double to Reilly, but they decided to race in Lucerne and are racing sometime during this flight. Long-time PBC coach Cam Kiosoglous is leading their efforts and we wish them the best of luck.