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Glenwood Wildwater Jubilee 2012
April 26, 2012 -- Glenwood Springs, CO
(Race directors should not be allowed to write up accounts of their own race. This slightly too long account will demonstrate that idea. It was written primarily for those who attended this event most of whom I didn't fully get to visit with.)
This year's Glenwood Canyon Wildwater weekend was again a great one. Thirty five racers, along with their coaches and race volunteers/parents enjoyed three days of great weather, water, and wildwater training/racing in one of the best wildwater settings in the US. Along with unseasonably warm air temperatures we also had near record low water flows. The courses we raced on had slow and less aerated water with more rocks showing and sections of the river to maneuver around. This meant slower course times.
A most encouraging aspect of the weekend for me was the growing numbers of younger paddlers. We had more cub cadets than any wildwater race I've seen short of last years Jr. Olympics. The presence of the very young tended to distort the ages of the other classes. Cadets, also a rarity in wildwater/downriver races seemed like juniors, the juniors, many who were still just 15 or just turned 16 years old, seemed like old pros-- as they should be since eight juniors in our races also raced at the Jr. Worlds last year.
At the young end of the age spectrum Cub Cadet Oran Huff not only raced impressively but showed his dad Russ the best lines to follow him down the course. Cub Cadets Kenny and Kady Kellogg and their cadet aged brother Brody Kellogg, from nearby Glenwood Springs, did the 2.5 mile race in short plastic boats. That was impressive as their performance for their size and their short, wide boats was the equivalent in energy consumption to an adult racing several times that distance in a glass wildwater boat. Team KelloggShow consists of more than a few of these budding multi-discipline athletes — a potential Team Popp of the west. Most impressive but not surprising were the runs put in by eleven year old Henry Hyde in both the kayak race and in a mixed C-2 run paddling stern with K-1W Naomi Everhart. Equally impressive was cadet C-1 racer Bryant Lord who handled his Tip Top extremely well on a course that had him making onside turns fairly consistently. Bryant is as well the most at home switch hitter that I've seen come up in C-1 in many years.
The Saturday morning Classic race starting area was truly an impressive site. In past years the kids waited along the bike path or set their boats down and went off and visited. Some were scared looking at the start, others would yawn, none were truly warmed up. This year most of our boats were in the water and not just waiting. Most were doing ferries and S turns and taking warm-up sprints, many at an impressive clip up an down the river. Most of the racers coming up to the starting area were grim faced and ready to race. None had the wild eyed look of the horses in a Remington painting but I can see that next level of intensity coming. I noticed more than a few in the rec boat traffic looking around with confusion in their faces as they drifted into and through this scene. A statement was made before the first racer took off.
The field featured top US ranked racer Cully Brown, a K-1 jr., who was the overall classic winner followed by former Jr. Team member/now engineering student Spencer Lacy (an 18-23 class racer) who placed second overall. In the K-1 Jr class Cully's time was followed by Jr racer Nico Touozzi of the Colorado Rocky Mountain School who took second barely nudging out Spencer Huff by a few seconds and two event racer David McConnell by ten seconds. Dawson racer Tim Shermerhorn completed both days events in a solid style and joined with Cully, Nico, Spencer, and David as K-1 members of this year's US Jr. Wildwater Team. If in a faster boat (than the wavehopper) Tim's speed would be much closer to the top racers. He was credible none the less.
Victor den Haan, our 19 year old "Guest Racer" raced in C-1 anc C-2 on Saturday. Long after everyone had gone elsewhere he put in an amazing but unofficial "fun run" of the classic course in his kayak that was faster than any that I have ever watched or timed on this course in any of the years and by a significant amount of time. "Fun" for most folks means enjoying the paddling or at least not taking it too seriously. For others "fun" is a bit more intense. On Sunday, Victor traded the C-1 for his kayak in the sprint races and had the best overall sprint race times, this time officially, while splitting time between the kayak and the C-2 events.
In this year's Jubilee doing multiple runs in different types of boat was encouraged and was commonplace for the first time in five years --- since our event was strictly a dedicated practice weekend with an agenda of getting in the maximum number of runs in as many types of boats one could manage. An unofficial count (not all runs were timed) showed at least eight racers changing boats to do additional wildwater runs this weekend. The number of canoeists racing in real wildwater C-1s and at a high level was very impressive. We had seven racers in C-1s and eight paddlers racing in the C-2 class. We had a few "True Grit" type manly C-boaters that dared and tested the mighty Colorado in narrow C-1s (as in having Bala type hulls) some for the first time on a river. These Rooster Cogburns were forced to rename themselves "Team Flipper". This was good too as all recovered and re-boarded and finished in good style and with positive attitudes and a deeper appreciation for the higher levels of C-boating. Vic went back to his kayak and Zach and Nick both did fine on the sprint course the following day racing in wider and friendlier boats. A short 12 months ago few if any of these jr. Canoeists would have been up to running this water in the C-1 wildwater boats. To have eight, probably nine had Henry Hyde been given a chance, now doing this and making it look easy was exciting to watch.
The C-2 class was the most competitive races of the weekend. The three experienced C-2 boats were separated by just 15 seconds on the 2.5 mile classic and by 30 seconds on the combined sprint times.
At the mature senior level, as in beyond the age of the 18 to 23 year old hotshots Victor and Spencer Lacy, we enjoyed the calm but race experienced presence of Ian Wolfe.' Ian is enjoying a farewell tour of racing for a while before his induction in the Army, hopefully bound for special forces duty in a few weeks. I was reminded of Ian when he was just graduated from high school in 2004 and was doing his last races before heading off to MIT. He was just as much of a positive presence within the group setting back then. We were likewise fortunate to have finally gotten veteran South African marathon kayak racer Gavin Richards of Vail finally active in wildwater this year after several years of chatting by e-mail and occasional visits at the Grisly Creek boat ramp. Gavin brought a friend, Dudley Ottley with him for their American Wildwater debut. While their racing was credible, both racers greater contribution was to the "maturity balance" of the race course social setting — someone has to show these kids how to have fun. In the canoes our sole senior level racer was Nate Lord who is becoming a Rocky Mtn. region racing icon for his taking on decked boat racers in his ACA type Open Racing Canoes while decked out in surf jams and using his round blade carbon fiber bent shaft Hawaiian style outrigger canoe paddle. Again, someone has to show these kids how to have fun.
Our K-1W Jr. field was made up of Jr. Team racer Naomi Eerhart and Colorado Rocky Mountain School (CRMS) racers Sophie Kornic and Gretta Wilson. Naomi, paddling in race class boats, had the competitive advantages. In a show of character (or perhaps an act of insanity) she also demonstrated her great faith and trust by paddling a second event, C-2 mixed, with 11 year old Henry Hyde working the stern. Sophie and Gretta, along with CRMS teammate Molly Padmore who raced K-2, likewise demonstrated great character and daring in jumping into these races coming from a more orthodox paddling background. I was gladdened to see the girls out in vintage old school plastic rec boats... I was even more impressed when Sophie came back for a second day of racing and enjoyed our sprint races.
Similarly our races greatly benefitted by having six CRMS K-1 (men's) competitors mixing it up with the specialized glass racers in mostly tripping type kayaks or wave hoppers. A significant statement of was made by Nico Touozzi who qualified for the Junior team with his second place classic race finish. The great attitudes, character, and wit by all of the CRMS team were just as valued. A regret that I had from the races was being too busy to get to meet and know these kids better. Hopefully more will be interested in wildwater racing next year and I will have that chance again.
As this is not the Academy Awards much less the World Championships I will close this lengthy account without fully listing every participant's or volunteer's names and without going too Howard Cosell by describing every player's contributions. I could write a nice story simply about the race moms that kept us fed and who manned the watches and radios or the assistant coaches and safety boaters without whom we could not do this event. The bottom line is that our Glenwood Wildwater Jubilee event each year is a humble and remarkable low key group effort with the true credit for its success belonging to all of those attending.
For me this event is a way of feeling both young again, as in being with racing friends I have known for a decade now, still doing races and enjoying be a part of that action,-- and feeling old at the same time, as in how I feel when I see 10 and 11 year olds tearing it up out on the water and a large group of junior racers whose skills at 14 and 15 are consistent with those of much older racers just five years ago. As a real race event and as a part of an improving junior program we are doing pretty well.