Tucked into a corner, near the boats at Nathan Benderson Park, the American rowers watched Mexico receive its first-place trophy after the conclusion of the CanAmMex Regatta on Sunday. Without little fanfare, a new generation of American rowers completed their first international competition.
Some cases were more extreme than others — USRowing junior women’s head coach Laura Simon noted at least one participant flew on an airplane for the first time to get to Sarasota — but unfamiliarity was the bond for the United States’ junior rowers at Nathan Benderson Park. Most were competing with the national team for the first time.
“It just sort of opens their eyes to what the next level is,” Simon said, “how much they need to gain in the next year in order to be ready for the World Championships.”
The CanAmMex Regatta, which was making a one-year stop at Benderson Park, has become a developmental tool for USRowing’s youth program. While Mexico and Canada use the regatta as part of their selection process for the World Rowing Junior Championships, the United States uses it as a chance to scout athletes who are a year or so away from being a factor at the world level. USRowing limits its competitors to those who still have at least one more full season before they age out of the U-19 junior age group. The three weeks of training in Connecticut and the subsequent week in Florida gives USRowing a full look at some of its younger athletes.
Last month, the 52 rowers who competed for USRowing at Benderson headed to the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., for three weeks of training with the national team. While this group prepared for CanAmMex, another group of USRowing members began training for the World Rowing Junior Championships, which begin Aug. 23 in the Netherlands.
The Americans finished second behind Mexico in the three-nation regatta, securing individual wins Sunday in men’s and women’s eight along with a Saturday victory in the women’s coxless four.
The end result, USRowing hopes, is a few more athletes with international experience to lean on once trials begin for next year’s World Championships, which will be back at Benderson Park.
“We want to be sure that if they’re going to go through this experience that we’re going to see some—and you’re going to see some—benefit the following year,” said Steve Hargis, USRowing’s head coach for junior national team development. “It’s a model that we’d like to keep going.”