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Top American Wildwater Racers Selected for Worlds, World Cups

The final field report from Chris Hipgrave on the 2002 USACK Wildwater Team Selections

by Chris Hipgrave
USAWildwater K-1
Treasurer, US Wildwater Committee

April 23, 2002 -- Ohiopyle, PA

The 2002 USA Wildwater Team Trials set a new standard for future event organizers. Tight organization, entertaining whitewater, quality venue, great prizes and t-shirts, relaxed pre- and post-event atmosphere and a post-race hoedown! Thanks to Jess Whittemore and his staff for time and effort in directing this event.

The 2002 USA Wildwater Team Trails were held a week ago on the Youghiogheny River in Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania. Saturday's Classic was through the famous "Loop" section and the "Doldrums", and included six great rapids that varied from big pushy waves to technical rocky drops and slots. Sunday's Sprint event was through the first two rapids on the Loop, known as "Entrance" and "Cucumber". These two drops included big water moves and rocky exits: a varied and entertaining sprint course

For all senior athletes, times from the Classic and Sprint events were converted to percentages off of the winner in each class and the athlete with the lowest combined percentages won. The first four athletes in each class represent the U.S.A. in June's World Championships in Italy, and an additional two more athletes join them for the World Cups run throughout central and eastern Europe this year. The Juniors simply compete in Saturday's classic, with the first two heading to Junior World Championships in Wales. A further two junior athletes are selected in May at the Western Junior Team Trials on the Crystal River in Colorado.

The Classic
Temperatures all week had been in the upper 80s, but race days bought an overcast and somewhat chilly conditions. The river had settled down to approximately 3'2" from the week's high point of over fifteen inches on the guage.

In the Junior classes, Beth Karp of the Little Falls Wildwater Club stole the K1WJr class, while in the K1Jr, the Nantahala Racing Club took one, two and three with a predictable win from Joe Barkley, followed by Clay Wilder and Tyler Dyer, separated by only 1.5 seconds. Joe's time would have been good enough for an 8th place finish in K1; a great accomplishment for a junior athlete.

Our sole C2 paddled by Michael Harris and Jim Smoot also cruised home.

With Michael Beavers out with a dislocated shoulder, Tom Wier won C1 by a comfortable and predictable margin. The rest of the top three was rounded out with Bob Bofinger and Chris Osment. Good news here was the inclusion of two new faces to C1 Wildwater. Jim Smoot and Ed Gordon competed in their first Team Trials and did very well. We look forward to seeing both of these guys at future events.

K1W was anything but a forgone conclusion prior to the race with some very strong paddlers participating for the first time against each other. In the end, slalom powerhouse Amy Dingle from the Atlanta Center of Excellence took first with Jennie Goldberg nipping at her heels close behind. Local legend and multiple winner of a host of mid-Atlantic races, Chara O'Brien, finished off the top three.

In the most competitive class of K1, Andrew McEwan took a predictable victory. Andrew had spent all winter long training with the USA Sprint Team in California and had returned east only one week before trials. Chris Hipgrave took second with Simon Beardmore in third. Simon looked very strong in this his first year as a senior athlete. He has been receiving coaching from the Little Falls Wildwater Club and it has clearly paid off. LFWC athlete Middy Tilghman took fourth with local dark horse David Hammond finishing as an impressive fifth, even after getting hung up in some rocks at the end of the Loop.

The Sprints
All athletes had seen the classic results so all knew what they needed to do to make the team. This is the make or break day. Athletes would do two sprints on the same course for a combined time. With two rapids containing a multitude of possible routes, anything could happen.

C1 Tom Wier again cruised to a comfortable victory with Chris Osment putting in two solid runs to switch places with Bob Bofinger.

Mid-Atlantic powerhouse Chara O'Brien proved that she knew this rapid inside out with a super performance, beating Jennie Goldberg and pushing Amy Dingle to third after a traumatic second sprint.

The biggest hoopla of the day occurred in K1. In the first heat Chris Hipgrave blazed his run to put nearly four seconds up on McEwan. McEwan came back with the fastest sprint of the day on the second heat, but it was not good enough to close the margin giving Hipgrave his first Team Trials win. Tilghman had two solid runs putting him firmly in third while video review was needed to determine whether Simon Beardmore had his head above water as he flipped crossing the finish line. Video analysis showed he did, so he just missed a DQ to snag fourth over local David Hammond.

The Team
All races completed, the 2002 USA World Championships and World Cup Teams were announced. For complete race results click here. Some team trials participants did not have the time to go to Europe so some positions where handed down the line.

1: Andrew McEwan - World Championships & World Cups
2: Chris Hipgrave - World Championships & World Cups
3: Middy Tilghman - World Championships & World Cups
4: Simon Beardmore - World Championships & World Cups
7: Steve Kauffman - World Championships, & World Cups
8: Scott LeRoux - World Cups
1: (JR) Joe Barkley - Junior World Championships & Senior World Cups

3: Amy Dingle - World Cups
4: Bunni LaBadie - World Cups
Jennie Goldberg - TBD

1: Tom Wier - World Championships & World Cups
2: Chris Osment - World Championships
3: Bob Bofinger - World Championships
4: Ed Gordon - World Championships

1: Harris/Smoot - World Championships & World Cups

K1M Jr
1: Joe Barkley - World Championships & Senior World Cups
2: Clay Wilder - World Championships

K1W Jr
1: Beth Karp - World Championships

Thanks again to event organizer Jess Whittemore and his team for putting on a quality event. Thanks also go to the following sponsors: Falls City Pub & Restaurant, Prijon, Wilderness Voyaguers, Ohiopyle Trading Post, Whitewater Adventures, Immersion Research, USA Canoe & Kayak, Riversport School of Paddling, Precision Rafting, Ohiopyle Prints, Little Falls Wildwater Club, Team Friendsville, Mountain Surf, High Mountain Sports, Laurel Highlands River Tours and Ohiopyle State Park.

Chris Hipgrave is Tresurer of the U.S. Wildwater Committee and a K-1 Wildwater racer living near Bryson City, NC. Reach him at