VARESE, ITALY – Four members of the Brown women's crew competed at the 2014 World Rowing U23 Championships in Varese, Italy, last week. Junior Coco Schoeller (West Palm Beach, Fla.) represented the United States in the women's quadruple sculls, while sophomore Emma Betuel (East Hampton, N.Y.) and freshman Alia Shafi (Lafayette, Calif.) donned the red, white and blue in the lightweight quadruple sculls. Finally, freshman Monika Sobieszek (Stoneham, Mass.) represented Poland in the women's eight.
"All in all, it was a wonderful experience," said Schoeller, who won gold as part of the United States eight last year. "But most importantly, I can't express how proud I am of the three teammates that joined me. They really took on the challenge of international racing like superstars."
Schoeller helped the United States to a third place finish in the 'B' finals on Saturday in a time of 6:48.76. Schoeller, who switched to sculling for this year's Worlds, occupied the stroke seat against a field that was won by Russia in 6:25.200 in the grand finals.
The switch to sculling posted a new challenge for Schoeller, whose helped Brown secure the Ivy League Championships Team Trophy and an overall third place finish at the NCAA Women's Rowing Championships this year.
"That's just a whole new ball game," Schoeller said. "Sculling races evolve a little differently, and that was probably the most exciting part for me. To learn a new skill, and to learn how to race a little smarter and a little harder."
Betuel and Shafi placed fifth overall in the lightweight quadruple sculls, finishing Saturday's race in 6:47.590. Their boat placed fourth in Thursday's first heat but bounced back with a second-place showing in Friday's repechage to earn a spot in the 'A' finals. Germany claimed the gold medal in a time of 6:39.670.
"Representing the U.S. was one of the most remarkable experiences of my life," Betuel said. "The level of racing was really thrilling and inspiring. Since I only started rowing two years ago at Brown, I can easily say that this never would have happened without the collegiate season. I believe that the racing spirit and intensity of my teammates and coaches at BWC really helped give [us] a chance to be competitive on the line at Worlds."
"The feeling of representing my country at such an elite level of rowing is an unexplainable feeling," Shafi said. "It's so amazing to be surrounded by tons of other incredible athletes from all over the world."
Sobieszek manned the stroke seat for Poland in a sixth-place finish in the 'A' finals on Sunday, crossing the line in 6:24.740. The United States earned gold for the third year in a row with a 6:07.880 mark.
Shafi credits the guidance of coaches John and Phoebe Murphy for helping the Brown rowers prepare for the world stage.
"We would not have made it to the grand finals at Worlds, let alone made it to Worlds, if it wasn't for the intense training we had at Brown," Shafi said. "Going down the race course during the rep, Emma and I told each other we had to 'release our inner Bruno' to qualify for the grand final, and we did it."