“It starts in college,” said Whipple. “People say, what are you going to do this summer?”
This year’s eight came from seven colleges.
“It doesn’t matter where you come from, it’s how strong you are,” said Whipple, who went to Washington. “Meghan Musnicki went to a D-3 school [Ithaca]. A woman in the pair [Sarah Zelenka] is from Grand Valley State. When we go to the World Championships, we have college ‘uni’ day, where everyone wears their college stuff.”
Though Great Britain, which won three Olympic gold medals in small boats this summer, has poured millions of pounds into developing an elite women’s program, no other country has the perpetual collegiate supply system that the US does.
“It keeps us all honest and makes sure we train hard,” said Francia.
The competition for spots has created an opportunistic diversity in the program, with sweep rowers often switching to sculling, as did Michelle Guerette, who won silver in the Olympic single in 2008, the first American medal in the event in two decades.
“We all do everything interchangeably,” said Francia. “The sculling team has elevated us and we’ve elevated them. They’ve seen the success of the eight and they want their own success.”
This year the quad earned a bronze in London, the first US medal in the event since 1984. Three of them — Kara Kohler, Megan Kalmoe, and Adrienne Martelli — will be in the eight Sunday afternoon for what will be a reprise of the Olympic final and, at the least, an autumnal victory lap as the American dynasty gets to show the flag before the home folks.
John Powers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.