They had less than one month to prepare.
Sarasota Crew women's rowers Maeva Ginsberg-Klemmt and Maya Schultz found out shortly after the USRowing Southeast Youth Championships May 14-15 that they would be paired together in the team's U17 2x boat at the USRowing Youth National Championships, held June 9-12 at Nathan Benderson Park. Schultz said the timeframe isn't necessarily unique for Crew rowers, but it is less time than other rowers get.
Many clubs like to set their Youth Championships boats earlier to develop chemistry, but the Crew waits until later to get the most information and make sure its boats are perfectly balanced, then trusts its coaches to instill synchronization in their rowers's catches (making oar blade-to-water contact) and other vital components of a row in time for the competition — and trusts its rowers to get the job done when it counts.
Ginsberg-Klemmt and Schultz got it done.
The duo won the national championship in the Women's U17 2x event, finishing first in the A Final (7:36.96) more than four second faster than second place Norwalk River (7:41.12). Schultz said she let out a scream "mid-asthma attack" after crossing the finish line; she was too happy to do anything but act on instinct. Then things calmed down and the pair were able to reflect.
"All I remember after crossing the finish line is Maya (Schultz) letting go of her handles, leaning back and saying 'We did it,'" Ginsberg-Klemmt said. "And I just looked into her eyes. It was such a content feeling. It was special. We pulled each other the whole way. We have so much love for each other."
Ginsberg-Klemmt and Schultz may have been thrown together with little warning, but that does not mean they were strangers. Far from it. The pair had raced together before, including at last year's nationals on the U17 Women's 8+ team which took a bronze medal and at this year's state meet, where they raced in the junior quad (4x).
They are also, as Ginsberg-Klemmt said, best friends. That helps, too.
Schultz said the pair compared their times to other clubs' boats before the event and came out favorably, but that comparison only goes so far, for it is hard to factor in wind and race pace to pure data. After winning their Youth Nationals time trial on June 9 by approximately 12 seconds (7:35.60), the pair began to believe a gold medal was actually possible.
Before the A Final, the only thing Schultz and Ginsberg-Klemmt thought about was giving their best effort. They did not want to have any regrets, Schultz said, after coming so far in such a short amount of time. Whichever medal they received — or even if they did not receive a medal — it would be enough, so long as they gave their full hearts to the race. That is what they did. The boat was behind during the first 500 meters, but the duo trusted each other and did not panic. The boat quickly found its rhythm and took the lead.
"About 750 meters in, I figured we had control," Schmidt said. "We started to cruise along. There was a little scare at the end because another boat (Norwalk River) sprinted hard and took a few feet back from us, but we were so far ahead at that point that I knew we had it."
Both Ginsberg-Klemmt and Schultz said the feeling of being a national champion is still sinking in, but the designation is undeniably meaningful for two rowers who have been working for years to reach the sport's peak, and now have done so.
"I think I raced in a double in one event this year before this weekend," Schultz said. "We were just thrown into this. The doubles is such a competitive event. It's all so unexpected and crazy, but I'm so happy. I think about it and I am like, 'Is this actually real?'"
Ginsberg-Klemmt and Schultz were Sarasota Crew's only national champions in 202, but far from the only rowers who finished high.
The club's Men's Youth 8+ boat finished with a bronze medal (5:50.70) and nearly earned silver; the Crew was approximately 0.02 seconds behind California's Newport Aquatic Center (5:50.68). It took a photo finish to determine who crossed the finish line first, but they both finished behind gold-medal winner Greenwich Crew of Connecticut (5:48.57). The Men's U17 8+ boat follow in their younger counterpart's wake, finishing third (6:09.92). Marin Rowing Association of California won that race (6:07.28).
Doing even better was the Crew's Men's Youth Second Varsity 8+ boat. The 2V 8+ race, designed to be a test of a club's depth, is new to the Youth Championships but is more common at events like the NCAA Championships. It requires clubs to fill a second 8+ boat with completely different members than its typical 8+ boat in the given age group. In this first attempt, the Crew's Men's Youth 2V 8+ finished with a silver medal (5:59.70) behind only Marin (5:58.29).
Sophia Stock, who rowed in the Crew's Women's Youth 2V 8+ boat, said it was fun to be a "guinea pig" for the event at the youth level. Stock's boat finished sixth in the event's B Final (7:04.09).
"I think we did well," Stock said. "We didn't know what to expect. Making the B Finals was a good result for the first time doing this. We didn't have a standard for this before. Now we do."
The Men's U16 4x also finished with a bronze medal (6:54.42).
The Youth Nationals might be over, but Benderson Park is hosting more rowing events this summer — including this week, when the U23 and U19 National Team Trials hit Sarasota. The trials, which began Tuesday, include a Sarasota Crew rower: Mason Kuipers, who finished third in the Men's Youth 1x B Final (7:27.17). Kuipers will be rowing in the Junior Men's 2x at the trials, partnering with Marin's Owen Anawalt. If selected for the U19 team, Kuipers would compete in the World Rowing U23/U19 Championships in July in Varese, Italy.