PLOVDIV, Bulgaria – Defending a world championship is never easy. It’s even harder with a completely new crew.

That apparently didn’t get in the way of the United States junior women’s four crew of Kendall Chase (Evergreen, Colo.), Georgia Radcliffe (Vienna, Va.), Deirdre Fitzpatrick (Cheshire, Conn.) and Ruth Narobe (Portland, Ore.).

After falling into second off the line, the U.S. climbed into first and held off Germany and New Zealand to win their opening heat in the 2012 World Rowing Senior and Junior Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria today, finishing in 6:53.51. Germany was second in 6:53.97, followed by New Zealand in 7:02.11.

The win moves the U.S. directly to the semifinal Friday. The U.S. won the event last year and has hopes of repeating.

"It was definitely a solid start and we’re excited for more," said Narobe. "We started down about three-quarters of a length on New Zealand and maybe a seat down from Germany. But we were confident and we knew in our middle thousand we could push through and we did."

It was a good start to the last international regatta for the United States with eight of 13 crews advancing to the next level of competition.

Two crews reached the finals, including the men’s pair with coxswain and the lightweight senior women’s quadruple sculls. In addition to the junior women’s four, the U.S. had wins in the junior women’s quad and the lightweight senior men’s pair and advanced the junior men’s quadruple sculls, the lightweight men’s quadruple sculls and the lightweight men’s single sculls.

Five others failed to advance and will now row in the repechage, or second chance races. The senior and junior world championships are a combined event run only in an Olympic year.

Racing in the repechages races will be the lightweight senior men’s eight, junior men’s four with coxswain, the junior men’s four, the junior women’s pair, and the lightweight senior women’s single sculls.  

In the junior women’s quad, the crew of Cicely Madden (Weston, Mass.), Alexandra Zadravec (Fairfield, Conn.), Elizabeth Sharis (Bettendorf, Iowa) and Rosemary Grinalds (New York, N.Y.) jumped into the lead off the line and had a clear open water lead moving into the second half of the race.

The U.S. finished in 6:46. 61. Australia was second in 6:51.03. Only the first two boats advanced. They will race in the semifinal Friday.

"We had a very, very good performance," said coach Guenter Buetter. "We had several options in case of different situations during the race and we executed perfectly the race plan overall. We didn’t have the fastest time, but the wind was shifting from race to race and our position during the race was so clearly ahead, there was not much more we should have done anyways."

The junior men’s quadruple sculls crew of Chris Wales (Seattle, Wash.), Ezra Carlson (Orleans, Calif.), Jacob Coert (Filmore, Calif.) and Alex Buck (Greenwich, Con.) claimed the third of four qualifying spots in their heat. After rowing in second for three quarters of the race, the U.S. was passed by Croatia in the final 500-meters, finishing in 6:08.10. Hungary won in 6:06.77. Croatia finished in 6:07.21.

In the lightweight senior men’s pair, Will Daly (Vail, Colo.) and Greg Flood (Tulsa, Okla.) rowed behind Germany for three quarters of the 2000-meter race until the final 500 meters when Daly and Flood sprinted past Germany to finish first in 6:49.02. Denmark was second in 6:49.61 with Germany crossing third in 6:53.94.

"The Germans went out really, really hard," said Daly. "They were smoking fast. I looked over at the thousand, and even before that, and thought they were just out of there. But we just kept pushing right next to the Danes and the Serbs and with five hundred to go we caught the Germans and kept pushing. Greg made some really good calls, pushing out on the Danes and then sprinting at the right time to get to the line."

They next row in the semifinal Friday.

Rowing earlier and advancing with a second place finish was the senior men’s pair with coxswain crew of Stephen Young Jr. (Tampa, Fla.), Justin Stangel (Madison, Wis.) and Blaise Didier (San Francisco).

After falling into fifth place off the start, the U.S. climbed steadily through the pack until they were sitting one spot out of a qualifying position going into the final 500-meters.

"We didn’t get out of the blocks as well as we wanted to," Young said. "It was interesting with the lanes today, they decided to shift us over, trying to make it fair across. But it was so swirly it was hard to predict. We were fifth to the first five hundred and then turned it into a two boat race after that knowing we had to get into a qualifying position."

The U.S. finished second in 7:13.44 behind Canada, which rowed a 7:11.21. They will now row in the Saturday final.

Next to advance was Andrew Campbell (New Canaan, Conn.) who was rowing the lightweight men’s senior single sculls. Campbell rowed into second place in the first quarter of the race, but fell to fourth, the last qualifying position to the quarterfinals tomorrow. Campbell finished in 7:30.32. Switzerland won in 7:21.28. Slovenia was second in 7:25.43, and Lithuania was third in 7:29.96.      

In the women’s lightweight senior quadruple sculls, the crew of Hillary Saeger (Dedham, Mass.), Michelle Sechser (Folsom, Calif.), Lindsay Hochman (Seattle, Wash.) jumped into first off the line but were overtaken by Italy in the second quarter. The two boats stayed ahead of the pack to claim the qualifying positions. The U.S. finished in 6:49. 88. Italy won in 6:45.88. They will row in the final Saturday.

The lightweight senior men’s quadruple sculls crew of Sam Cunningham (Pittsburgh, Pa.), Dave Smith (Seattle, Wash.), Bob Duff (Huntington Valley, Pa.) and Shane Madden (Ambler, Pa.) advanced from their heat.

The U.S. jumped into the lead in the first quarter of the race and then finished third to claim the last qualifying position. The U.S. finished in 6:08.92. Denmark was first in 6:06.14 with Japan rowing into second in 6:07.80. They will all row in the semifinal Friday.

The junior women’s pair team of Kathryn Brown (Federal Way, Wash.) and Christine Cavallo (Windermere, Fla.) finished second in their heat. Only one boat advanced to the final. Italy won in 7:25.99. The U.S. finished second in 7:31.60 and will row the repechage tomorrow.

In the junior men’s four with coxswain, the crew of coxswain Jake Mendelson  (Jacksonville, Fla.), Bradley Plunkett (Darien, Conn.), Samuel Helms (Snohomish, Wash.), Eli Brown (Dallas, Texas) finished fourth in their heat and will also row the second chance race tomorrow. The U.S. finished in 6:27.13. Italy won in 6:15.95.

In the junior men’s four, the crew of Ryan Hails (Osprey, Fla.), Ben Chuter (Portola Valley, Calif.), Allen Reitz (Long Beach, Calif.) and John Chuter (Portola Valley, Calif.) finished fourth in their four boat heat in 6:27.13 and will row again tomorrow. Italy won in 6:15.95.

Rowing the lightweight senior women’s single sculls, Ursula Grobler (Pretoria, South Africa) finished third in her heat in 7:54.22. Greece won in 7:49.89. Grobler rows in the repechage tomorrow.

In the final event of the day, the lightweight senior men’s eight crew of coxswain Eric Rhiel (Menomonie, Wis.), Phil Grisdela (Great Falls, Va.), Ryan Fox (Edgerton, Wis.) Anders Corbett (Staten Island, N.Y.), Martin Forde (Mill Creek Wash.), Nick Dawe (Cincinnati, Ohio), Will Robins (Chappaqua, N.Y.), Sam McKenna (Blue Bell, Pa.) and Andrew Hashway (West Boylston, Mass.), finished fourth in their four boat heat in 6:04.55.  Germany won in 5:51.37. They will row again tomorrow.

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