Four University of Wisconsin rowers have secured invitations to attend the 2017 USRowing Men’s U23 Selection Camp, a precursor to representing the U.S. in the 2017 World Rowing Under 23 Championship. Wisconsin rowers, senior Sebastian Amberger, senior Andrew Griffin, senior Sam Weeks and junior Erik Kernozek are among the 29 athletes invited to the national team camp.
The Men’s U23 Selection Camp will be held in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, this summer. The group of invited rowers will compete for making boat placement to represent the U.S. at the World Rowing Under 23 Championships in July in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.
The training camp will be coached by Dave O’Neill of the University of Texas and Brian De Regt of Oakland Strokes. They will evaluate the rowers and winnow down the group to comprise just an eight and a four.
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Wisconsin’s Sam Weeks attended the national team selection camp in 2016 and is determined to take his upcoming experience as far as he can.
“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to get a second shot at selection camp,” Weeks said. “Being cut on the final day of camp last year, I’m hoping to use my experience to take the next step this summer and make one of the boats.”
As a senior, with his NCAA eligibility coming to a close and years of rowing for one of the top men’s rowing teams in the country, Weeks has both the ideal mindset and skillset to accomplish his goals.
“This is likely the best I will be at rowing since my collegiate eligibility runs out once this season is over, so I will be in the best possible position to perform at my highest ability,” Weeks said.
Along with Wisconsin rowers being frequently invited to U23 selection camp on consecutive years, UW’s rowing team also provides the most athletes chosen for the prestigious camp compared to other schools each year. In 2016, six Badgers were invited to the Men’s U23 National Team Selection camp: John Laing Wise IV, Sam Weeks, Sebastian Amberger, Andrew Griffin, James Lueken and James Roen.
An invitation to selection camp is based upon “coach recommendations, physical and physiological characteristics (e.g. height, weight,), past performance in international and domestic competition, and the athlete’s ability to match the style and technique of the crew as determined by the designated coach,” according to USRowing.
Cornell University and Yale are each sending three rowers, followed by Harvard and Princeton, who will each send two.
The men’s rowing program at Wisconsin has great strength in producing athletes who are highly competitive at the top level of collegiate rowing.
“Coach Clark has always told us he runs the Wisconsin system like a national team program,” Weeks said. “We race a lot and are constantly being tested and scored, but this gives every rower countless opportunities to show improvement and move up in the rankings.”
While other colleges with rowing traditions use a strategy of creating a winning team by further developing rowers who proved themselves on the high school stage, Wisconsin largely draws from “walk-ons” with no prior rowing experience. UW cultivates top rowers from scratch in the realm of collegiate rowing, and for some, on the national and international arena.
Wisconsin’s Erik Kernozek walked on to the men’s rowing team at Wisconsin his freshman year and now has the revered opportunity to make the national team.
“The top end of collegiate rowing right now is extremely saturated with internationally recruited oarsmen,” Kernozek said. “I’m proud to be a part of a team that develops walk-on, home-grown athletes like myself to the United States national team selection camp level.”
Weeks came into NCAA Division I collegiate rowing with some high school rowing experience, but showed dramatic improvement while rowing for the Badgers.
“The system here allowed me to develop from being the slowest recruit in my class to being invited to the U23 camp,” Weeks said. “What is even more impressive is that two of the other three guys invited from Wisconsin are walk-ons and had never rowed a stroke before college, which really validates how quickly and well the system can develop elite American oarsmen.”
Beyond the athletic development that makes a top collegiate rower, the dedication and commitment needed for such achievements has also had profound positive mental effects on the athletes.
“Rowing has forced my mentality to change from being afraid of work and pain, to the love of results,” Kernozek said. “Because of rowing, when I approach obstacles in my life, rather than thinking about where I would rather be in the moment, I always look forward to where I know I will be if I put in the work.”
The Wisconsin rowers selected for the Men’s U23 Selection Camp are optimistic about their upcoming experience and the prudence of their efforts.
“Ending my rowing career by representing the United States at the World Championships would be a very nice way to go out,” Weeks said. “Regardless of the final outcome, I want to end the camp with no regrets about my effort.”