Sam Ojserkis is bringing back to Linwood a unique souvenir from his trip to Europe: a gold medal.
Ojserkis, a 2008 Mainland Regional High School graduate who also competed for the University of Washington, was the coxswain on the United States’ winning boat in the eight-man final at the World Rowing Under-23 Championships in Trakai, Lithuania, on Sunday.
“It feels great,” Ojserkis said in a videotaped interview. “I feel like a million bucks. I’m proud to be on this stage here representing my country.”
The Americans finished the 2,000-meter race in 5 minutes, 47.66 seconds. Germany (5:48.22) finished second and Australia (5:50.71) third.
In a phone interview early today from Lithuania, Ojserkis said the race was really the first time he and his teammates got to race 2,000 meters. College races typically cover shorter distances.
“We finally got to see the real speed of the boat,” he said.
Conditions, including a crosswind, were not ideal for racing, though.
“It kind of messed with our rhythm a little bit,” he said. “I called a few audibles — sort of off our scripted plan — that needed to happen and the guys responded quite well.”
Germany led at 500 and 1,000 meters, but the U.S. surged into the lead by 1,500.
The Germans were closing fast over the last 150 meters, Ojserkis said on the video.
“They really threw everything they got ... but we were able to hang on there for the gold,” he said.
Earning gold along with Ojserkis: James Voter, Robert Munn, Gardner Yost, Ambrose Puttmann, Ryan Schroeder, Alexander Bunkers, Thomas Dethlefs and Ian Silveria.
Ojserkis said the medal ceremony Olympic-like, with the playing of the U.S. national anthem. He said the experience was “humbling.”
Great Britain (5:51.98) finished fourth, Poland (5:54.09) fifth and Spain (6:04.22) sixth.
Ojserkis’ gold medal-winning performance capped off an impressive week in Lithuania for former Cape-Atlantic League high school crew members.
On Saturday, Seamus Labrum, a Holy Spirt alumnus from Cape May Court House, was coxswain for the silver medal-winning U.S. men’s-four boat. Also Saturday, Ted Baumgardner, a St. Augustine Prep alumnus from Longport, was a member of the U.S. boat that finished fourth, less than one second out of third place, in the men’s-four final.
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