Showcasing their speed, stamina and savvy, athletes representing Greenwich Crew returned home from the 2022 World Rowing Under 19 Championships in Italy with fond memories and an ultra-impressive display of medals after excelling overseas.
Frances McKenzie, a rising Greenwich High School senior and Phoebe Wise, who is entering her senior year at Greenwich Academy, were members of the U.S. women’s Under 19 crew that won the women’s eight race at the 2022 World Rowing Under 19 Championships recently on Lake Varese in Varese, Italy.
The U.S. women’s eight crew finished first at the U19 World Championships in a record time of 6:12.16. While the United States won the gold medal in the event, Great Britain claimed the silver medal, 2.41 seconds behind the Americans. Germany earned the bronze medal. The U.S. broke the Czech Republic’s previous best time of 6:13.04 set in 2018.
McKenzie was the coxswain in the United States’ women’s world championship eight boat, while Wise was one of the crew’s rowers.
“I’m super proud of them,” Greenwich Crew Director of Rowing Michael Wieneke said. “To qualify to compete in the boat and then to go on and to win a gold medal and set a world record while doing so – that’s amazing. They showed that their hard work and dedication paid off.”
The world-record setting crew consisted of McKenzie, coxswain, Eugenia Rodriguez (Spain), Lily Pember (Chicago, Illinois), Sarah Bradford (Oconomowoc, Wisconcin), Quincy Stone (San Francisco, California), Ellie Bijeau (Washington, D.C.), Wise, Sofia Simone (Miama, Florida) and Nora Goodwillie (Chicago).
The U.S. crew took the lead about 200 meters into the race and held a half-second advantage over Germany at the 500-meter mark. At the midway point of the race, the U.S. extended its advantage over Germany to 1.5 seconds before putting increasing its lead on the field during the third quarter of the race.
“Going up to the start line, we knew there would be a massive tailwind,” said McKenzie, a Cos Cob resident. “We got off to a super strong start and we were on a great pace. Through the 1,000-meter mark, we were on pace for a world record. We knew we had to maintain our power.”
“The last 500 meters, I was thinking more about being up on other crews and going for the gold medal than a new record,” McKenzie continued. “When we got the gold medal, it was very exciting. That’s what we were working so hard for.”
Indeed, competing in such a prestigious regatta on the world stage was a time to remember for the athletes.
“It’s definitely a stressful environment,” McKenzie said. “You are overwhelmed at first. It is really exciting to get out there on the water and see everyone around you that have been working for months with for such a huge race. Nothing can prepare you for the moment.”
Being the coxswain for a crew that included her friend and Greenwich Crew teammate Wise was certainly beneficial to both athletes.
“Phoebe is one of my best friends, so it was super exciting to compete with her,” McKenzie said. “To be the two Greenwich crew girls in the boat was really an honor. Performance-wise, we know each other as athletes, so we had that understanding going into the race.”
McKenzie was the coxswain in Greenwich Crew’s women’s 8+ boat that earned the silver medal at the 2022 USRowing Youth National Championships, was part of a championship crew at the US Rowing Youth National Championships back in 2011 and experienced a victory in the women’s 8+ at the Head of the Charles Regatta in 2021.
Wise has competed with the Greenwich Crew program since her freshman year of high school. Her sister Whitney, a 2022 Greenwich Academy graduate, also rowed for Greenwich Crew and is taking her rowing skills to Princeton University. Phoebe also has plans of rowing at the collegiate level, as does McKenzie.
Drew Cavanaugh of Greenwich Crew competed on the U.S. men’s eight that placed third at the U19 World Championships, earning the bronze medal with a time of 5:38.17. Germany won the gold medal (5:33.43) and Great Britain got the silver (5:35.36).
The U.S. men’s eight included Cavanaugh, a Greenwich resident, Adam Casler (Newport Beach, Calif.), Davis Kelly (Vashor Island, Wash.), Jordan Dykema (Seattle, Wash.), Owen Finnerty (Ardamore, Pa.), Kian Aminian (Newport Beach, Calif.) and John Patton (Houston, Texas).
Cavanaugh, who is headed to Yale University, where he will join the crew team, served as one of Greenwich Crew’s captains this past season. He and his fellow Greenwich Crew rowers won the gold medal in the men’s 8+ at the 2022 US Rowing Junior Championships in Florida, recently. Cavanaugh competed in Greenwich Crew’s championship 8+ boat at the 2021 Head of the Charles Regatta and won the U17 eight at the 2019 USRowing U17/U15 National Championships.
Elenna Seguin, a rising Greenwich High School senior, also represented Greenwich Crew at the U19 World Rowing Championships. She was the coxswain for the men’s four crew at the World Rowing Championships. Seguin began rowing for Greenwich Crew shortly after finishing sixth grade and starting rowing competitively as a coxswain as a ninth-grader. At the U.S. Rowing Youth National Championships recently, she was the coxswain for Greenwich Crew’s gold medal winning men’s eight crew.
“The atmosphere was definitely a little bit intimidating,” Seguin said of competing in the U19 World Rowing Championships. “Before that, the ones I competed in were national. Everyone had their own culture and spoke a different language. It was one of the coolest experiences I had in my life. Everyone there was looking to make a name of themselves It gave me a new perspective of the sport.”
Seguin relished the challenge of competing at the world championships.
“The competition it was tough, it was a tough field,” Seguin said. “We didn’t place exactly where we wanted to get, but it was a great experience. Everyone was so talented and really hard working.”
In order to qualify to compete in the U19 World Rowing Championships, athletes had to be invited to the U.S. Junior National Selection Camp in California – a camp that took place shortly following the 2022 Youth National Championships. The selection process then took place, as athletes were chosen to represent the U.S. U19 team at the World Championships.
“It changed my perspective of rowing itself,” Seguin said. “The moment you step into the selection process camp, you can see right away that you are surrounded by a bunch of people who are motivated. It helped build me as an athlete and coxswain.”
Indeed, Seguin enjoys all the aspects of being a coxswain.
“It’s definitely mentally tiring,” she said. “One of my favorite challenges going into the boat is motivating your crew. It’s great that you also steer the boat. You always have to be open minded and change your calls.”
Greenwich Crew enjoyed a highly successful 2021-2022 season and is seeking standouts for the upcoming fall season.
“It’s been pretty special over the years to watch how many kids capitalize on the hard work they have put in and what they have learned, then continue to compete at the college level,” said Wieneke, who has headed Greenwich Crew for 14 years.
The Greenwich Crew athletes appreciate how much they have gotten out of being a part of the program.
“I’ve learned a lot,” McKenzie said. “Working through challenging situations and working your way through them is one of the things I have learned over the years. As a coxswain I am looking at a lot of different people’s strokes and focusing on how to get them to work as a unit. That’s something that has been challenging and it’s taught me how to get everyone on the same page.”
“I consider Greenwich Crew to be my second home now,” Seguin said. “They are my family, they are the best. Mike (Wieneke) leads our program wonderfully. We have the best people there. Everyone is really hard-working and we are always pushing ourselves to be the best that we can be.”
Categories: Summer Sports