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Wildwater Champion joins National Sprint Team

by Chris Hipgrave

Geoff Calhoun
Eastern U.S. Athlete Representative

June 27, 2005 -- Lake Placid, New York

After successfully defending his Wildwater National Championship in Salida Colorado and then winning the Fibark down-river marathon, Geoff Calhoun of Bethesda MD, jumped into his car and drove across country to Lake Placid New York to join the rest of his Washington Canoe Club team mates at the 2005 USA Canoe & Kayak Sprint Team Trials in an attempt to gain a spot on the USA Sprint Team. This would be Calhoun's debut sprint regatta.

The 2005 USA Sprint Team Trials was a four day event located in beautiful Lake Placid, New York, that would select the fastest sprint paddlers in the country to represent USA Canoe & Kayak at the Pan American Championships in Lac Beauport Quebec and also the Senior and Junior World Championships in eastern Europe later in the summer. Events are run on a 500 and 1000 meter course in K1, K2, K4, C1 and C2.

In his first heat of the 500m K1, Calhoun was placed in lane 8 (of 9) as an "unknown" and ended up placing a solid 5th in 1' 53.8" The top three go straight to finals, but Calhoun placed well enough to move into the semi-finals. Calhoun later admitted that he did not feel comfortable in his sprint boat. The transition from a wildwater to a sprint kayak can be a difficult one and having raced all Spring long in wildwater it really was not surprising. By the time Calhoun moved into his semi-final, he was looking much more comfortable in his boat. The race was basically between Lanier Canoe Clubs Ty Hagler and Calhoun. Neck and neck to the 350m mark, Haglers years of experience paid off as he edged ahead of Calhoun. Geoff finished in 1' 52.1", Ty in 1' 50.4". Hagler and Calhoun would move into the "A" final along with many members of the US Olympic Sprint Team, including Rami Zur and Jeff Smoke. The 500m finals was one of the most anticipated races of the day with all the "big dogs" having made the "A" final. The pace was blistering. Calhoun with his characteristic upright style was slowly dropped by the experienced Olympians, finishing in 8th in a very respectful 1' 53.4". In his first Sprint regatta, wildwater champion Geoff Calhoun had made the final along with Olympic caliber paddlers!

Next, Calhoun moved on to the 1000m event. This longer event was probably Calhoun's event as wildwater paddlers are more used racing longer distances. In the heat, Calhoun placed a solid 6th in 4' 08.8" moving forwards into the second semi-final. In the semi it was the same cast of characters with a Hagler / Calhoun show down. Once again, Haglers experience paid off edging Calhoun into second. Hagler finished in 4' 07.3" and Calhoun in 4' 09.0" moving both of them into the "A" final along side the half a dozen Olympians. Along with the 500m, the 1000m event was highly anticipated. Spectators lined the banks of Mirror Lake as the announcer whipped them into a frenzy as the racers approached. Olympian Jeff Smoke flew down the course in 3' 43.5" while Calhoun cruised to a 7th place finish in 4' 00.0".

Geoff becomes the first dual national champion in about a decade.

See for more information.

Congratulations to Wildwater National Champion and Team member Geoff Calhoun for an outstanding performance at USA Sprint Team Trials and for being selected to the USA Pan-American Championships team.

Editor's note: Geoff declined his spot in the b-k4 to prepare for the Upper Yough and Great Falls races.