Taking 2nd in Single Sculls at U-23 Worlds, PU Crew Star Kallfelz Continues Rapid Rise

SILVER STREAK: Emily Kallfelz competes in a race in the Princeton University women’s open varsity eight this spring. Last weekend, rising senior Kallfelz took second in the single sculls at the U-23 World Championships in Poznan, Poland.(Photo provided courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

By Bill Alden

Emily Kallfelz enjoyed success in rowing before she ever got on the water.

Making her debut as a high school junior in the sport by competing in the 2014 Crash-B, an indoor rowing event based on ergometer times, Kallfelz placed eighth.

“I did a bunch of sports beforehand, soccer, swimming, sailing, and I did some triathlons when I was younger,” said Kallfelz, a native of Jamestown R.I., who was a multi-sport star at St. George’s School.

“My school didn’t even have a rowing team. My parents both rowed in college at Cornell and they were like, ‘maybe you should try it out, you might like it. It is kind of fun.’”

Once Kallfelz got on the water that spring, she had a lot of fun, ending up competing for the U.S. at the 2014 World Junior Championships and placed seventh as the stroke of the quadruple sculls. A few months later, she won 2014 Head of the Charles in the single sculls and set course record and then won the 2015 Youth Nationals in both singles and doubles (with younger sister Eliza).

In the fall of 2015, Kallfelz joined the Princeton University women’s open crew program and started to excel in a team environment.

“I had never really trained that hard or for that long before,” said Kallfelz. “It was really cool to be around really strong, fit women like that.”

Fitting in right away, Kallfelz made the varsity eight as a freshman and has helped the top boat win three straight Ivy League titles.  Last weekend, rising senior Kallfelz showed her strength on an international stage, taking second in the single sculls at the U-23 World Championships in Poznan, Poland.

Coming off a strong junior campaign, which saw the Tigers take fifth at the NCAA championships in addition to the Ivy crown gave Kallfelz confidence going into this summer.

“It was a huge point of change and attitude toward training for the championship; we did a big volume increase,” said Kallfelz.

“All of us look back on this year and say it was a huge improvement for us. As a team, we all feel like we are going in the right direction.”

The increased training came in handy when Kallfelz turned her attention to sculling after the end of the college season.

“This winter, we were all erging since we weren’t in the boat, it was individual training,” said Kallfelz.

“I was focusing on getting my erg score down and building power because I am a smaller person in the boat. That has really helped me coming into this summer, being more powerful and more fit.”

Despite that improved conditioning, Kallfelz still faced an adjustment period in getting up to top speed in the single.

“Going from an eight to a single is the biggest transition, it takes three or four weeks to get used to the single again,” explained Kallfelz.

“Racing in the eight is about six and a half minutes long. There is not much pressure, it is not a very heavy load. In a single, you are racing around eight minutes and you have a lot more weight. You are lifting a lot more. It is tough; it is really hard on your body because it is so much more pressure on everything. You get cramped up, you have back issues and hamstring issues.”

Overcoming those issues, Kallfelz advanced to the single sculls final at the U.S. Senior Trials on Lake Mercer in early July and cruised to victory, clocking a time of 7:48.33 over the 2,000-meter course to defeat runner-up Elizabeth Sharis by nearly 10 seconds and punch her ticket to Poland.

“I went into trial definitely prepared for a really hard race; I didn’t taper, which was a little risky,” said Kallfelz. “I didn’t feel like I raced super well. I definitely had areas to improve in all of my races there.”

In order to improve heading into the U-23 competition, Kallfelz trained in the Boston area with former Princeton rowing standout Gevvie Stone ’17, who took silver in the women’s single sculls at the 2016 Summer Olympics.

“She is a great role model and training partner, it is amazing to train with her,” said Kallfelz of Stone. “She is awesome. She is helping me out a lot.”

Before heading over to Poland, Kallfelz was feeling some nerves.

“I am excited but before competition, I start feeling not good,” said Kallfelz, who took third in the event at the 2017 U-23 worlds.

“I am antsy and ready to go. I start overanalyzing every aspect of my rowing. I have to relax. It is one step at a time, it is hard to tell how good your competition is. Some years it is really competitive, some years it is less competitive. I am focusing on one race at a time, getting to the semis and hopefully getting into the finals and then throwing down the best race I can in the finals.”

Making the A final, Kallfelz threw down a superb race, coming in at 7:31.60, just over three seconds behind the winning time of 7:28.34 clocked by Samantha Voss of New Zealand.

“My starts are typically not so good, so I was trying to make sure I stayed in the pack at the start and then build throughout the middle of the race,” Kallfelz said after the race to USRowing.

“It got bumpy, and I struggled a lot with the bumps. That’s where she got me. I took a few diggers, and I couldn’t get the rate back up. It’s a good learning experience.”

In the view of Kallfelz, her experience on the world stage this summer has served as great preparation for her final season at Princeton.

“It is nice to be able to put your head down and be working for a goal as opposed to saying ‘I need to pull a 5k in four months,’” said Kallfelz, who was just one of four rowers in the program to medal at the U-23 competition as rising sophomore Hannah Scott earned a silver medal on the British pairs while rising senior Claire Collins and rising junior Hadley Irwin helped the U.S. women’s eight place take bronze.

“We will be feeding off the momentum from last year. We are going to miss all of our seniors that just graduated, but I think we are also setting ourselves up to do really well for this coming season. Our seniors this coming year are great; everyone is such great leader and a great role model. I think we have a really good point to be starting from.”