Sarasota Crew Club lightweight team wins bronze at USRowing Olympic trials
SARASOTA -- The biggest stars at the final day of the USRowing Olympic trials Sunday at Nathan Benderson Park will not be going to Rio De Janeiro this summer.
Monica Whitehouse and Rosa Kemp will watch the 2016 Summer Olympics from the United States, and they will not regret much.
"Expectations were really no expectations. We expected to be in the pain cave for a lot of it, and I think we were," said Kemp, who is originally from Putnam Valley, N.Y. "We're happy with how we did given the short time we've really been committed to training together. It's a good place to start."
Whitehouse and Kemp rowed to shore after a third-place finish at the Olympic trials to deafening cheers. They stepped to land, grinning from ear to ear and waved to their supporters in the crowd dotted with people wearing shirts with the Sarasota Crew Club's block "S" logo.
Whitehouse and Kemp, coaches for Sarasota Crew, concluded their first Olympic cycle as teammates in the lightweight double sculls event less than 19 seconds away from improbably qualifying for Rio.
Whitehouse, who graduated from Wisconsin in 2014, and Kemp, who graduated from Buffalo in 2013, formed their team eight months before trials came to Nathan Benderson Park. They were never considered much more than a long shot to reach Rio, but as the week progressed and teams were eliminated, Whitehouse and Kemp survived.
They finished third in time trials Thursday, won a repechage Saturday to reach Sunday's final four. They finished their final 2,000-meter race at Benderson in 7:36.61. Kate Bertko and Devery Karz earned the Olympic spot with a time of 7:18.50
Whitehouse and Kemp, though, were the ones greeted like champions.
"You can see them all behind us," said Whitehouse, who is originally from Big Bend, Wis. "Every day they've been out here cheering for us and giving us encouragement. It's just amazing to get to represent the 'S' with all of them watching us because they're just a big family at Sarasota Crew."
They drew the biggest flock of reporters for a postrace interview, and spoke close enough to the crowd that their fans could hear them praise the club and the atmosphere it provided during the week. Eventually a chant broke out, and Whitehouse and Kemp were serenaded with "Sarasota Crew!"
Pairing the crowd support with their miniscule expectations was a perfect match for the young lightweight pair. They wanted to sustain a run through the week for as long as possible, but just so they could gain more experience against past and future Olympians. With each race they tried to take away at least one lesson.
In a year, the World Rowing Championships will come to Benderson and Whitehouse promised the two would be there for that, even if there's no immediate plan for the upcoming summer and beyond.
"What's next is pancakes," Kemp said, "and then we'll talk about it."
David Wilson, Herald sports writer, can be contacted at 941-745-7057 or on Twitter@DBWilson2.