By Kelsey Lauer
For the Albion College canoe team, it’s easy to get the best of white water rapids, even with the huge holes, standing waves and water spray.
At the American Canoe Association (ACA) Collegiate Canoe and Kayak Championships held Oct. 9-10 on Tuckasegee River in Dillsboro, N.C., Albion’s canoe team won the national title for the fourth straight year—winning every year since the championships began in 2007.
“It’s an adrenaline rush that keeps me coming back, and it’s something that I enjoy doing, just being around water,” said Keith Kaplan, St. Charles, Ill. senior, who attended the championship for the second time and returned with two golds and a bronze medal. “It’s a learning experience—the first time I paddled here at Albion, I couldn’t even keep a canoe straight.”
The team’s 11 members won with a score of 6 points against five other teams from colleges around the nation—the lowest score wins—with an estimated 80-100 competitors present. Each Albion team member is also a member of the college’s canoeing club—made up of around 80 members who chose to compete at the championship.
Events included individual men and women’s kayaking and canoeing races, double canoeing races and team relays with four legs. Albion team members took first in men’s kayaking, men’s canoeing, women’s canoeing, doubles canoeing and the team relay.
“(The team members) seem to be enjoying winning and seem to be planning on continuing after college,” said Keith Havens, canoe club advisor. “I like to see people being successful and enjoying themselves.”
Carmen Lee, Albion senior, didn’t plan on attending what would be her first nationals until Havens persuaded her to go. Lee took second in the doubles canoeing and third in individual women’s canoeing.
“It’s funny because I wasn’t going to go, but the coach bribed me into going with a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup,” Lee said. “Most schools don’t have a canoe team, and it’s exciting to be national champions in white water. Everybody supports everybody, and there’s not a lot of pressure—Albion’s just naturally good.”
The team has a casual practice schedule, with practices around two times per week, Havens said. Many members joined the canoe club and began competing after taking the canoeing and kayaking class taught by Havens—Brian Paul, Bloomfield Hills first-year, was one such member.
“It was intense—a lot of good people on the team and a fun race,” said Paul, who competed in men’s kayaking and canoeing and the team relay. “I definitely plan on doing it again next year.”
David Huggins, Grand Rapids first-year, joined the canoe club with 13 years of prior canoeing experience and competed in men’s canoeing and doubles canoeing.
“I had an interest in canoeing and heard about it at Brition Bash, so I signed up there and joined,” Huggins said. “I like shooting rapids; it’s always a thrill. It’s kind of calming when you just get to go out there and paddle.”
Photo courtesy of Sue Havens.