The Pan Am Games had their Closing Ceremonies Saturday night after nearly two weeks of competition. The US did extraordinarily well, earning medals in numerous sports and events. The US rowing contingent did very well winning 9 medals in 14 events, two gold, five silver, and two bronze.
In the women’s pair Molly Bruggeman and Emily Huelskamp earned gold.
Emily said this about her experience, “The Pan Am Games were a lot of fun. It was a great way to gain more experience racing in the pair and get to interact more closely with my own teammates as well as athletes from other countries. The race itself went as we had planned. We wanted to stay relaxed and in our rhythm from the start and Molly did a great job of keeping us effective and smooth. Our goal was to win the first 500 and then keep lengthening our lead from there and we were able to do just that. We had prepared for a variety of scenarios so we could be ready no matter the circumstances, but in the end the actual race gave us the chance to focus on improving and pushing ourselves as we went down the course, which is always a great situation.” Also winning gold was Mary Jones in the lightweight women’s single.
Lindsey Meyer and Nicole Ritchie came in second in the women’s double.
Lindsey and Nicole also placed second in the women’s quad along with Victoria Burke and Sarah Giancola. Victoria and Sarah earned a bronze in their race in the lightweight women’s double.
Austin Meyer and Colin Etheridge placed second in the lightweight men’s double. Austin shared his experience at the games and racing. “Pan Ams very much felt like a teaser to what I imagine the Olympics games would be like. While we competed a ways away from the main events in Toronto, it was very cool to be racing at the Canadian Henley course because there is already such an entrenched awareness and appreciation for our sport and the athletes on Henley Island. Even during practices people were at the finish line watching, heckling, cheering. As for the double final, Colin and I focused on having our best piece possible and letting the adrenaline and excitement work in our favor. We had a crisp and fast opening 1k and were leading to just before the 1500 when the Mexican crew raised it. Unfortunately our push to get back even in the final quarter left us with nothing in the last few strokes while they had a well rehearsed push for the line. It was a great race, we’re happy with how we performed given our time out of the boat together while prepping for the lightweight quad. It’s a good note to leave off on before we make our push for the World Champs.”
Katherine McFetridge gave us a great account of her experience at the games and her silver medal finish in the women’s single. “The Pan American games were an incredible experience! It was fun to travel and fly as Team USA. It was particularly special because I was joined by a number of my Vesper teammates. Upon arriving, we went through athlete processing and we got a TON of beautiful USA gear. Sunglasses, sneaks, hats, shirts, bags and backpacks, bloomers, you name it we got it! The athlete village at Brock University was sweet. We were well set up with a dining hall, snacks, gym and pool. It was neat to be around athletes from so many different countries. We would take shuttles to and from Brock for practice/racing. The rowing venue was fairly quiet and set up with a number of amenities like an athlete tent with sodas/snacks/coffee and energy bars. My heat was pretty chill, besides for hearing the roar of the grandstands as I crossed the 500m to go mark. I started trembling all over. I knew my family and friends were at the finish and I just still couldn’t believe I was rowing in USA colors! By the time of my final, I knew a little bit of what to expect. I went out with the goal of rowing my best race from start to finish…and I did. I had a conservative start and built momentum through the piece and rowed through all of the women in the field besides Canada, who had gotten out quick and stayed ahead. To be honest, the awards ceremony was nerve-racking and exciting. It was my first standing on an international podium. I kept smiling at my coach and family with love and disbelief. We had made it, and I came out with a silver medal- not bad for a first timer. While of course I wish I could have won, finishing about seven seconds behind such a formidable sculler was a good gauge of where I am and where I want to be for the future. As for now, I am having fun! My season is over, and I’m looking forward to a vacation full of sleeping, ballet, yoga, reading, and family. Then, it will be back to the drawing board. I learned a great deal about the habits that make me successful through my Pan Am games experience. I look forward to seeing how well I can execute those habits day in and out over the next year as I make my next big push toward the 2016 Olympic trials!”
The men’s eight composed of Sam Ojserkis, Keane Johnson, Nareg Guregian, Kyle Peabody, Dave Eick, Erick Winstead, Taylor Brown, Brendon Harrington, and Matt Mahon came in third earning bronze. The final of the nine medals was silver won by the lightweight men’s four of Matt O’Donoghue, Andy Weiland, Peter Gibson and Robin Prendes. Andy shared his experience with us. “Competing at the PanAm games was a great experience for myself and for the whole US team. The atmosphere at the rowing venues was exciting and conducive to competitive racing which is what we as athletes look forward to most. The weather throughout the week of racing was somewhat variable as the winds frequently changed direction and speed. In the heat of our event we had a slight tail wind and progressed to the final after controlling the pace throughout the race. By the time our final came, the winds had shifted to an incredible stiff head wind. We got off the starting line cleanly and quickly but never settled into a base rhythm that was efficient enough to carry us to the gold medal position on the podium. Having had our eyes on the gold, placing second was somewhat of a disappointment, but we were proud to have the opportunity to represent the United States at the 2015 PanAm games and bring a medal home to our supporters.”
These were the first medals the US won this summer and hopefully the U23, Junior and Senior teams will follow up with medal worthy performances of their own.