St. Augustine Prep graduate Ted Baumgardner and Mainland Regional High School graduate Sam Ojserkis hadn't met before the US Rowing Under-23 trials in Seattle last month. They will leave for Trakai, Lithuania, today as teammates.
"It's cool to have another South Jersey rower (Baumgardner) with me," Ojserkis, a Linwood native, said. "I remember meeting Ted and thinking, 'Oh, that's pretty neat!' He's a funny guy."
The two participated at the trials, where 20 of the top athletes in the country competed for 12 spots in the men's four and men's eight boats. The 2012 World Rowing Under-23 Championships begin on July 11 with the finals on July 14 and 15.
Baumgardner will be the bow in the men's four without coxswain.
"It's a good feeling," Baumgardner said of making the team. "More than anything, it's a humbling experience and a unique feeling."
Ojserkis will be the coxswain of the men's eight boat. He will join University of Washington teammate Seamus Labrum, a Holy Spirit graduate, in Lithuania. Labrum will be the coxswain for the men's four boat.
"It's a real honor to be able to row with these guys and for the United States." Baumgardner said in a phone interview on Wednesday. "We are really anxious to leave with it being the Fourth of July."
Baumgardner started his rowing career at St. Augustine Prep and is no stranger to the success that comes with hard work and dedication. The 2009 graduate was the seventh seat of his varsity-eight boat his junior year, stroked his senior year and won states both years.
The 6-foot-4, 190-pound rower is a senior at the Naval Academy and rows in the fourth seat of the men's varsity eight on the heavyweight team and has been named captain for the 2012-2013 season.
"Rowing in a four-boat has been different. In a four-boat, it is a lot less stable than the eight. There is a lot more focus on you as an individual because your flaws and mistakes aren't masked by other rowers," the 21-year-old said. "It is a tougher boat to row technique wise."
This is the first time Baumgardner and Ojserkis have traveled internationally for competition.
"Everyone tells (you) that it's just different putting on the red, white and blue and having your name called at the start line for the United States of America." Ojserkis, 22, said in a phone interview on Wednesday. "But we are going to treat it like any other race and handle our business like practice. We don't want to change anything because it's a bigger stage."
Ojserkis, a 5-foot-8 inch, 122-pounder, was a coxswain at Mainland in the second varsity eight boat that won states in 2007 and 2008. He has graduated from the University of Washington where his boat won the national championship his last two years as well as a junior varsity national championship in 2010.
As the competition approaches, the athletes are ready to start their journey to Lithuania and start competing against some of the best rowers in the world.
"It's a tough regatta to win. It's not going to be a cake walk by any means," Ojserkis said. "The important part is doing it together. As long as we stay unified, we will be in really good position."
Baumgardner and Ojserkis have received texts, phone calls and emails from supportive friends and family as well as donations for fundraising efforts to lessen the cost of traveling to Lithuania.
"A bunch of my buddies from high school that I rowed with have been in touch with me," Baumgardner said. "The response we've gotten has been awesome."
When asked what it will take to win, Ojserkis' answer was simple.
"Our overall rhythm and speed (of the boats) needs to be ready. We only race twice so there is no room for error."
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