Rowing to the final

The U.S. women's eight rowing team, with Tessa Gobbo of Chesterfield (fifth from left), cruises to a dominating performance in Monday’s heat at the Rio Games. The team easily advanced to Saturday’s final.

RIO de JANEIRO — Tessa Gobbo of Chesterfield and the U.S. women’s eight boat rowed one step closer to a possible gold medal on Monday in the Rio Olympics during heats at Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon.

The U.S. team posted a qualifying-best time of 6 minutes, 4.34 seconds over the 2,000-meter course.

By winning its heat, the U.S. automatically advanced to Saturday’s final. Great Britain won the other heat with a time three seconds behind the U.S. The rest of the field for the finals will be decided during the repechage phase of the regatta.

The U.S. won by eight seconds over Romania, with the Netherlands and Australia trailing.

“It was great,” said rower Amanda Polk of Pittsburgh. “It was our first full (race) together, and we definitely were right in rhythm with each other. We just had a lot of fun. It was a good first step to set us up for the final.”

The U.S. team: coxswain Katelin Snyder (Detroit) and rowers Amanda Elmore (West Lafayette, Ind.), Eleanor Logan (Boothbay Harbor, Maine), Meghan Musnicki (Naples, N.Y.), Gobbo, Lauren Schmetterling (Moorestown, N.J.), Polk (Pittsburgh), Kerry Simmonds (San Diego) and Emily Regan (Buffalo, N.Y.).

The U.S. women’s eight is the two-time defending Olympic champion and comes into competition with 10 consecutive Olympic and world titles, a streak that started in 2006.

“It’s fun being back there and racing with the girls in the boat,” said Regan, competing in the bow seat. “I couldn’t ask for a better group of nine girls to race with, so I am so excited that we get one more race together, and we’re hopefully going to make it the best race we’ve ever done.”

Of the nine U.S. crews that raced Monday, seven advanced to the next level: the women’s eight, quad sculls, double sculls and pair and men’s pair, double sculls and four.

“All of our crews now have a race under their belts,” said Curtis Jordan, USRowing director. “Some performed well and have some adjustments to make. None have been eliminated and there is time to adjust.

“All have to keep improving over the next several days. How the coaches and athletes respond to these early races will make a difference in their final results.”