University of Notre Dame graduate Erin Boxberger, granddaughter of longtime Great Bend residents Arlyn and Vicki Boxberger, captured a world rowing championship Saturday at Plovdiv, Bulgaria.
Overland Park native Boxberger joined her Notre Dame teammate Molly Bruggeman (Ohio); Erin Reelick (Connecticut); and Maddie Wanamaker (Wisconsin) to capture the women’s 4- event in 6:25.57.
Australia, the 2017 world champions finished second (6:27.090) and Russia earned bronze (6:27.36). These athletes are part of the Princeton Training Center in Princeton, N.J. and are candidates for the 2020 Olympic Games.
Erin is the daughter of Randy and Cherie’ Boxberger who reside in Missouri City, Texas. Erin graduated from Blue Valley North High School; and the University of Notre Dame (2017). At Notre Dame, she was a three-time Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association All-American.
Veterans of the U.S. Rowing development system, Boxberger and Bruggeman have claimed gold before at the U-23 level. Saturday’s victory is the first gold medal victory for the former Irish All-Americans at the Olympic level.
The crew of Madeline Wanamaker, Boxberger, Bruggeman and Erin Reelick trailed slightly off the line but quickly moved into the top spot, building about a one-seat lead on Denmark at the 500-meter mark. The U.S. continued to press forward in the second quarter of the race, taking nearly a length on the Danes at the midway point, with the defending world champions from Australia sitting in third.
“We had a great heat and a great semi,” Bruggeman said. “Our plan was to execute our race plan. We stayed very focused on what we were doing and not worry about anyone else. That really worked out. I wasn’t looking out the boat the whole time. I didn’t care what place we were in. I knew I had to follow Reelick and pull as hard as I could.”
Australia pulled into second as the crews crossed into the final 500 meters, with the U.S. still holding about length lead. Australia cut the deficit, but the Americans came away with the 1.52-second victory with a time of 6:25.57.
“It’s redemption from last year,” Bruggeman said. “We crossed fourth in 2017, and (Erin and I) told ourselves that we never want to feel that again. It feels so good right now.”
The victory returns the U.S. W4- to the world championship/Olympic gold medal podium for the first time since 2015.