Although he didn’t win gold, Hudgins said that he was grateful to compete in the World Championships and that it provided him with a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“Competing at the Junior World Championships was pretty crazy. You get to the start line and all of your training over the last two months comes down to one six minute race… You have to keep your head in the game and push through it in the middle of the race,” said Hudgins. “It was really cool to race other countries as well. In America, we just race Americans, and that’s cool, but to be able to race [Great Britain], Germany, Poland, and China- that’s really cool.”
To be chosen for the team, Hudgins had to row in a variety of different types of boats. According to Head Coach Dale Hurley, preparation was key for Hudgins, as he had never rowed in a two-person boat before.
“[Hudgins] and I got together, about a week and a half before the [trials]… so that he could get ready, because he’d never rowed in a pair before, so he didn’t know what that was going to be like,” said Hurley. “He was very strong already, but his experience in the small boat was [minimal], so we gave him a little bit of confidence before he got out there.”
“Once he got there, he’s a strong guy so that’s where it came through for him. He did well, and about half the people there got cut and he did not, so he made it through and it was awesome,” continued Hurley.
According to Hudgins, to qualify for the event he had to beat out more than seventy other rowers in a strenuous process that consisted of many different events.
“They did a couple of Erg tests which is the rowing machine- that played into the selection. They did a matrix which is where we did races in the eight, the four, the coxswains were in the straight four, and the pair. They tallied all of those things together and then put a few boats together and saw which ones were the fastest based on all the groups of boats… It was definitely difficult, but very rewarding in the end,” Hudgins said.
Once he had secured a spot on the team, Hudgins and his crew began training for the World Rowing Junior Championships.
“It was really fun to be in a boat with eight other people, including the coxswain, who really cared about what they were doing and really were pushing everyday to be the best boat that we possibly could be,” said Hudgins. “That was a really special experience during training.”
In its first race in Tokyo, the United States faced Germany and Poland. Germany beat the U.S. Team, who crossed the finish line with a time of 5:46:630, by just over seven seconds. Poland fell short of both teams, trailing seven seconds behind Team U.S.A.
“Our first race in the heat was an okay race. It definitely wasn’t our best race based on our time trials where we trained. We knew where we were at and it wasn’t up to par,” said Hudgins.
Following the first heat, the U.S. team. moved on to the repechage, a race where the losing teams of the different heats competed for a chance to proceed to the finals. Of the five boats in the repechage, four continued to the finals. The U.S. Team won first place in this race, beating out the second finisher by four seconds.
“Our second race, at the repechage, was much better,” said Hudgins. “We got first in the repechage and moved on to the final, where we were hoping to beat the Germans.”
Hudgins’ boat fell to the Germans once again in the finals, trailing by five seconds. Despite the loss in the finals, Hudgins was proud of his team’s effort and knew that the team performed to the best of its ability.
“We came away with a silver medal instead of gold. Our final was definitely our best race that we could have had. In our position, I think we did a really good job during the finals. It’s tough coming away with the silver to the Germans, but it was definitely a good race,” said Hudgins.
Sam Boshar ’19, former Andover rower and teammate of Hudgins, attributed Hudgins’s achievement to his constant hard work and perseverance.
Boshar said, “Jacobs attitude is his defining feature in my opinion. He is extremely focused on the water and very coachable. Both of these characteristics contribute to his success. But above all is his mental fortitude. Jacob is able to push himself harder than almost anyone I’ve met.”
According to Hudgins, his success was a direct result of his experience and training with Andover rowing.
“Andover rowing was where I learned to row, that’s where I started to love the sport, so definitely my coaching at Andover taught me how to persevere through pain,” said Hudgins. “[My coaches] were very influential in my preparation for the camp and were amazing coaches in general. They helped me be a better athlete. They definitely planted in me a desire to win and a desire to compete at the highest level possible.”