BUFFALO, NY- It was a banner day for former University at Buffalo rower Cornelia Willis on Wednesday morning as she became the first UB athlete to qualify for the U-23 Rowing World Championships and will represent Team USA in the Women's Lightweight 4x.
This morning on Mercer Lake in West Windsor, N.J., 15 crews moved closer to their international dreams by earning berths to the team that will represent the United States at the 2012 World Rowing Under 23 Championships July 11-15 in Trakai, Lithuania, during trials racing. Willis, who rowed for GMS Rowing out of Connecticut, was joined by teammates Carolina Paini, Sarah Giancola and Samantha Brecht. They won their race by just under two seconds finishing at 6:46.799.
This is a huge accomplishment for Willis, who never sculled before joining this camp in Connecticut. At Buffalo, Willis always took part in sweep rowing, where the athletes in the boat were only responsible for one oar, either on the port side or bow side. In sculling, each rower is responsible for two oars.
The boat got off to a great start and then had a solid middle thousand, before falling a few seats back. However, in the final 250-300 meters her crew made their move for the victory.
"From my understanding, this is the first UB rower to ever represent USA in the World Championships, which is obviously an unbelievable accomplishment for Cornelia," said lightweight coach Kerri Kanaley. "I have been fortunate enough to be her coach over the last three years and I don't know anyone who deserves it more. She is an incredible student-athlete and has more heart than anyone I know. Proud isn't a strong enough word to describe how I feel today, and I am just so happy for her."
For Willis and her teammates, they will now head back to Connecticut to continue training and will leave for Lithuania around July 6 to get adjusted and practice. Racing will begin the 11th and go through the 15th of July. More information about what other countries are being represented will be available in the coming days.