Courtesy of US Rowing

On Thursday morning, former Yale women’s rower Kristina Wagner ’15 finished in first place at U.S. Olympic Trials II with doubles partner Genevra Stone. The victory granted the pair a spot on Team USA to compete at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo in the double sculls event, or W2x.

Off the start line, Wagner and Stone slipped into third before edging their way up to first place position around halfway through the course. With around 500 meters left of the race, the duo decisively moved ahead of Meghan O’Leary and Ellen Tomek, the early race leaders, into a strong gold medal position. Wagner and Stone crossed the finish line just under four seconds faster than the second place crew.

“It is exciting, but it definitely has not sunk in yet,” Wagner said in a text to the News. “I’m really excited to continue rowing with Gevvie and learning from her. We both want to continue getting faster.”

Following their win at the trials, Wagner and Stone plan on returning to Boston to continue their training in anticipation of the Tokyo Olympics, beginning on July 23.

Following the time trial on Monday, in which the duo placed third, Wagner and Stone crossed the finish line first on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, with their fastest time of 7:04.18 on Wednesday in the semifinal.

“The week of racing went by pretty quickly, [and] due to weather there were a few changes in schedule so there was no day off,” Wagner said. “We took things day by day and just wanted to keep improving race to race, which I think we did.”

Wagner and Stone crossed the finish line on Thursday with a time of 7:07.21. (Photo: Courtesy of Rob Pungello)

This week’s trials in Princeton, New Jersey, followed U.S. Olympic Trials I which took place in Sarasota, Florida, in March. At Trials I, Wagner finished third behind Kara Kohler and Stone, respectively, in the women’s single sculls final. 

While Wagner and Stone will have to wait until July to compete in the games, their chances at earning a spot in the final in Tokyo look promising. O’Leary and Tomek, the second-placed crew at Trials II, were finalists in the 2016 Olympic Games in the double sculls and most recently secured a silver medal at the 2019 World Rowing Cup III. Wagner’s partner, Stone, is a 2016 Olympic silver medalist in the single, and she placed fifth with Cicely Madden at the 2019 World Rowing Championships in the double.

“I could not be more proud of Kristi, her determination is awesome,” William Porter, Yale women’s crew head coach said. “She is a great athlete who has worked very hard for this. She deserves all the credit.”

Porter continued to say that Wagner has joined an elite group of Yale women’s crew Olympians including legends of the sport Chris Ernst, Ginny Gilder, Anne Warner, Taylor Ritzel, Ashley Brzozowicz, Tess Gerrand, Jamie Redman and Rachel Jeffers, as well as incoming first year Christina Bourmpou.

Wagner mentioned that she thinks it is “pretty cool” that both her and Stone rowed at Ivy League schools and that it says a lot about the strength of the league in women’s rowing. She told the News that she feels “a little extra desire to pull hard when sitting behind Stone’s Princeton [uniform].”

Eric Catalano, Wagner’s longtime coach, has worked with the Yale graduate since she was in high school.

Following their win at the Trials, Wagner, right, and Stone plan on returning to Boston to continue their training in anticipation of the Tokyo Olympics. (Photo: Courtesy of US Rowing)

“The earning of this opportunity to represent the USA at the Olympics was especially exciting for me to see this reward for her determination and grit and growth over the years,” Catalano said. “I am so proud of her and happy to see the faith we had over the years through the process bring such an exciting opportunity.”

Catalano continued to speak about her positive attitude throughout the “full rollercoaster of highs and lows that accompany the pursuit of a lofty goal.” He described a moment he shared with Wagner before her most recent training cycle, where she said that while there is a lot of work to do before Tokyo, she has “never been more excited to do the work.” 

In Tokyo, Wagner and Stone will face competitive teams from leading Olympic rowing nations, namely New Zealand, who clinched gold at the 2019 World Rowing Championships in the double sculls.

“Earning the chance to race at the Olympics doesn’t get less thrilling with time. I was excited before the race to go out and to go hard, and I’m even more excited now to get to continue pursuing this dream,” Stone told USRowing.

At the 2020 Olympics, rowing will be hosted at the Sea Forest Waterway in Uminomori, Koto-ku, Tokyo. 

Amelia Lower | amelia.lower@yale.edu

AMELIA LOWER
Amelia Lower covers women's soccer, men's lacrosse and men's ice hockey. She is a sophomore in Jonathan Edwards College and is from Rye, New York.