The U.S. women's eight had less than three weeks to prepare for the world rowing championships held late last month in St. Catharines, Ontario. As it turned out, it was time enough for the Americans--including former T.C. Williams rower Linda Miller--to maintain their prominence.
Coach Hartmut Buschbacher settled on a lineup Aug. 4, leaving 19 days of fine-tuning before the United States sprinted to victory in its preliminary heat on Martindale Pond. The Americans, who finished second in the worlds a year ago, entered Sunday's final with a chance to eclipse three-time defending champion Romania. But despite a late surge they fell short, taking silver ahead of Canada.
Nevertheless, the U.S. women's eight became one of nine boats the national team qualified for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney (Australia and Germany led with 11 qualifiers each.). Among them is the men's eight, which captured its third consecutive title, and the men's double scull, which earned a spot in the Games with a third-place finish in the B final. Alexandria's Nick Peterson, who graduated from T.C. Williams in 1991 before competing for Harvard, was in the stern seat. There is also a graduate of the school on the coaching staff: Mike Porterfield ('85), who is an assistant on the men's team. Arlington's Sean Hall was a member of the men's quadruple scull that did not qualify for the Olympics.
Miller, 26, positioned in the second seat, has a good chance of making next year's trip to Sydney. There are grueling tryouts and training days ahead, but Buschbacher likes what he has seen of the 6-foot-2, 160-pound rower who led T.C. Williams to the 1990 national high school championship.
"She's a good athlete. . . . Over the year she consistently improved," Buschbacher said from the ARCO Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., where the women's national team trains (the men train in Princeton, N.J.).
Miller, who won a bronze at the 1998 worlds in the women's pair and who is a three-year veteran of the national team, went camping after the trials to get away from ergometer tests and rising expectations. "She did a good job," Buschbacher said. "I like to put her at the bow . . . She's good at the catch . . . She's very skilled."
It is a proficiency that has taken years to develop. T.C. Williams senior eight girls coach Dee Campbell first took notice of Miller when she learned to scull as an eighth-grader in a program at Occoquan Reservoir. Miller blossomed as a senior in 1990, helping the Titans win the first of six national championships this decade. She competed for Boston University and George Washington before moving to San Diego to pursue a place on the national team.
"She's done pretty good for herself . . . She's earned everything she's got," said Campbell, who has coached rowing in Northern Virginia for 40 years. Of Miller's winning the silver at worlds, "That's the ultimate," he said.
Peterson, 26, did not win a medal, but his reputation remains large at the Alexandria Schools Rowing Facility, where T.C. Williams practices. "The kids would just sit there in awe," T.C. Williams boys coach B. Michael Penn said of the three-year national team member. "His presence helped establish to the guys--'Hey, this is how hard you have to work at this level.' "