The Sarasota Crew sent seven athletes to compete at the World Rowing Championships Aug. 21-28, in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
Sydney Edwards’ heart pounded to the beat of the announcer’s voice reverberating across the water.
The 17-year-old Pine View student sat perched in the back of the U.S. Junior Women’s 8+ boat and stared off into the horizon.
One by one, the announcer rattled off the list of countries that would be competing alongside the Sarasota Crew coxswain and her American teammates in the World Rowing Junior Championships Aug. 21-28, in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, France and Russia, among others, all were in attendance.
It was unlike anything Edwards, who coxed the women’s 8+ to a first-place finish in last year’s CanAmMex Regatta, had experienced.
“Sitting at the start line for heats and listening to the starter name off other countries, rather than other crews from my state, was such a rush of emotions,” Edwards said.
At the starter’s signal, Edwards launched into a series of commands as her teammates plunged their oars into the depths of the Willem-Alexander Baan rowing course.
With each stroke, Edwards realized that no matter the outcome, she was gaining valuable racing experience that would only elevate her status as one of the best coxswain in the world.
After finishing fourth in the heat race and coming back to win the repechage, Edwards coxed the women’s 8+ to a fifth-place finish.
“This is such a huge stage to be on at this age, and the fact that I can be a part of this experience with the fastest junior women in the country is so unreal to me,” Edwards said. “It means the world to me, literally, to compete at the world championships. The fact that I have the ability to represent my country in the sport that I love to do is not something everyone can do, and I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything else.”
For the first time, the World Rowing Junior Championships, Under-23 Championships and Senior Championships were all run at the same venue. Nearly 1,900 athletes from 71 countries participated in the event, making it the largest world championships ever held, according to World Rowing.
With representation across all three age categories, the Sarasota Crew had the largest contingent, with seven athletes competing in this year’s World Rowing Championships. Having all three races at the same site also allowed the rowers to share the experience with one another and watch their teammates compete on the world stage.
In addition to Edwards, Andrew Leroux, Clark Dean, Zack Skypeck and Jacob Shusko all competed in the Junior Championships. Leroux, Dean and Skypeck were part of the Men’s 4x, while Shusko was the coxswain for the Men’s 8+.
Travis Taaffe represented the U.S. in the Men’s 4x at the Under-23 Championships, while Sarasota Crew men’s assistant coach Monica Whitehouse competed in the Women’s Lightweight 4x at the Senior Championships.
Sarasota Crew head coach Casey Galvanek also traveled to the Netherlands to coach the Men’s 4x junior national team.
“Regardless of what country you are representing, every athlete here has worked incredibly hard to be in the position they are,” Whitehouse said. “Its incredible to know that I too am part of this cohort of fierce and fit athletes.”
All of the Sarasota athletes were fortunate enough to post top 5 finishes in their respective finals. Shusko and the rest of the Men’s 8+ team earned a silver medal, finishing behind Germany by three-hundredths of a second with a time of 5 minutes, 38.610 seconds.
Leroux, Dean, Skypeck and teammate David Orner finished third behind the Czech Republic and Germany in 6:00.32 to win the bronze medal.
“One of the main reasons I wanted us to do well was to show the world that the U.S. men are a force to be reckoned with in the rowing world,” Dean said. “We are looking to improve further and really be regarded as a top-tier competitor.”
For Whitehouse, the trip was particularly special because it was her first time traveling outside of North America and also her first time competing internationally.
“There are a lot of phenomenal athletes here, and racing them is an essential experience to help make me a better athlete,” Whitehouse said.
Upon returning to Sarasota, the members of the Junior National Team will pick up right where they left off, training with their Crew teammates for the upcoming fall season, which will feature the prestigious Head of the Charles Regatta Oct. 22-23, in Cambridge, Mass.
Join the Neighborhood! Our 100% local content helps strengthen our communities by delivering news and information that is relevant to our readers. Support independent local journalism by joining the Observer's new membership program — The Newsies — a group of like-minded community citizens, like you. Be a Newsie.