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Salida Runoff Downriver Race

by Denny Adams, Events and Programs Chair

May 15, 2012 -- Salida, CO

On May 4th,5th, and 6th) the FIBArk Racing Club of Salida, Colorado hosted its first Colorado High School Cup series races on the Arkansas River. As a new event, the Salida "Runoff Race" weekend is very welcome on several fronts. One is that Salida joins with Durango, Glenwood Springs, and Golden giving our series now four distinct race venues, each representing a different part of the state and each taking place at a paddling town and river that has long and well established traditions for high quality boating. The FIBArk Racing Club is well known in racing circles for hosting our hemisphere's longest running Downriver Race and the longest running Slalom race and as well for hosting one of the Nation's major freestyle/rodeo events

What distinguished this weekend's races from the much larger summer river festival that FIBArk hosts was the tranquility of racing in the off-season. Our racers had the river, the white-water park, and the town in general pretty much to ourselves. Finding lodging in town was easy, the restaurants were easy to get a seat at, and we were always able to find parking near the boat ramp. A real treat was having a small enough race field to fit into the FIBArk Club's boathouse for pre-race and awards meetings and for a pizza and movie night on Saturday.

The downriver/wildwater race took place on Sunday Morning. Unlike at last year's Wildwater National Championships (which had around 3,000 CFS), we were racing this year on an exceptionally low flowing (around 400 CFS) course with a fairly stiff and cool Spring headwind. As at last year's nationals, the races started on ledge drops of the town whitewater water park. Being in lower water the finish was extended downstream to the big eddy at the top of Bear Creek Rapid. (Bear Creek at under 400 CFS was too bony to run in glass boats.) As is practiced at the FIBArk 26 mile Long-Classic Downriver Race each June, the Runoff Race's downriver race was run mass start in two groups.

Leading out the A-group through the water park was FIBArk legend and whitewater park designer Gary Lacy. Gary was eventually passed by top Junior Cully Brown who broke away from the pack after riding the main ledge hole at the park, pushed up against the forth place (overall) finishing C-2 of Will Goggans and Gabe Machado. Gary placed second overall followed by C-1 Sr. racer Peter Kabzan- formerly of Slovakia. Peter recently became a US citizen and was in his first race in the US. When adjusted for boat class handicaps Peter had a very good run as did Gary and Will and Gabe in the C-2.

The length, head winds, and slow currents of the course provided a learning opportunity for pacing and race tactics for the younger members of our race field. The top finishers Cully, Gary, Peter, Will and Gabe, Nate, all had machine-like strokes that held a pace before the finish sprint that was similar to what they had at the starting area and at the two thirds mark. The emerging group of junior level racers all put in great efforts and likewise did a great job of finishing with a sprint. They may not see it at this age but every race is making them stronger and more like the top finishers. Also notice that (by request) I am sparing most of the teens (cool kids all) by not naming everyone this week and will let the results tell the stories.

The second starting group definitely had fun. Special mention goes out to Dawson School Mom Susan Everhart for having a go at her daughter's sport and to Brianna Whittern for being there to help her with the getting back in the boat aspects of a first downriver race. Larkin Barron made the big step up to racing in a Wavehopper and likewise learned how much fun a long and round bottomed boat can be if you get caught in an eddy and end up facing downstream into a log. As in all of our events this spring we have enjoyed a youth movement of cadet and cub cadet level participants. Cub Cadet Henry Hyde and Cadet Bryant Lord race like juniors and placed high racing in that class. The Cubs were again amazing for simply being out there. Clearly that last mile was a lot longer for newer racers where age and "endurance power" spread the gaps out between the senior and the younger racers.

The happy camper type scene at the finish area and later at the awards ceremony back at the FIBArk boathouse clearly showed that this year's "Runoff Races" /Salida High School Cup Races were a great success one that we all look forward to going to next year.

Click here for the complete results

Click here for photos by John Putnam