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The US rowers feel the need for speed

They'd already won another set of global gold medals during the summer, but there still was a bit of unfinished business here from last year's victory.

"Our goal was to break the course record," said coxswain Mary Whipple.

So her US women's eight played Beat the Clock in yesterday afternoon's Head of the Charles finale. And when the numbers went up, the home team had chopped more than four seconds off the mark its Canadian rivals (London Training Center) set four years ago, beating their northern neighbors in the championship event by nearly 13 seconds in 15:26.57.

"This US squad likes to break records," said Whipple, after her boat had claimed its third straight Head title and fifth in seven years. "We like to go fast."

So do their male counterparts, who blew away a field of overmatched collegians to win their 11th crown since 1994 here by more than 26 seconds over Wisconsin. "Flat water and a nice clean run," observed cox Marcus McElhenney, whose boat posted a time (14:03.71) that was less than five seconds off the course record set by their 1997 predecessors behind a stiff tailwind. "Couldn't have asked for anything more."

All in all, it was a satisfying weekend for Uncle Sam's flotilla, which also went 1-2 in yesterday's championship men's fours, won the men's lightweight single with Rich Montgomery, and claimed the men's championship double Saturday with Sloan DuRoss and Sam Stitt.

Not that there was much doubt in a year when few top-drawer international boats turned up. When the Germans opted not to come, the US men's eight essentially was rowing in an Intercollegiate Rowing Association final.

And the women only had to worry about the Canadians, who were a couple of lengths behind them in sixth at the world regatta.

"The girls in the boat see the Canadians," said Whipple, "and they want to keep them a little bit smaller and a little bit farther back."

Even without stroke Caryn Davies and bow Brett Sickler, who'd rowed Saturday in the double and single events, respectively, the Americans had plenty of speed and power available. They simply plugged in Rachel Jeffers and Erin Cafaro from their world-champion four and hit the gas.

"We had a new rudder on and it was awesome," said Whipple, whose boat had more than three seconds on the field at the Riverside checkpoint and more than 10 at Weld. "It was Demolition Derby down the course."

Coming around Dead Man's Curve before the Eliot Bridge, Whipple reckoned her mates had to pick it up to set the record. "It was like pushing the 'Go' button," she said. "We put our heads down and the girls just brought it home."

By Whipple's watch, they had the mark by three seconds. "I told them, 'Don't hate me, but unofficially we did it.' "

The men, with nobody to give them a battle, had to set their own pace, so they followed their mantra - "Never Enough."

"At the last mile marker, I told them we could still see the red [Dutch student crew D.S.R.V. Laga]," said McElhenney. "And [3-man] Wyatt Allen screamed, 'Never Enough.' "

Although the winning margin was plenty, the Yanks' won't be facing collegians in Beijing next summer. Their rivals at Olympus will be the Canadians, Germans, and British. "We got fourth place in the world," said McElhenney, whose oarsmen are heading to Clemson for winter training. "Not enough. We've got 10 months to get it right."

John Powers can be reached at

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