By Claire Van Raaphorst
Albion College’s most successful sports team isn’t a team at all. It’s a club. And they’ve done something that no Albion sports or even any other college’s team has ever done – win the National Championship every single year it’s been put on.
Albion College’s Canoe club came back from North Carolina this weekend with their fifth National Championship title.
Nearly 30 students drove down to the Tuckaseegee River in NC and paddled against a variety of competitors. They were against big schools like Clemson and Georgia Tech to their biggest rivals, smaller schools like Warren Wilson College and Brevard College in NC.
“Everyone did remarkably well,” said Keith Havens, Aquatics Director, Head Swim Coach and Canoe Club coach. “Unfortunately I didn’t see much of it because the course is in the middle of the wilderness and when the students got to the finish line, they had to paddle another two miles to get to a part where they could take their canoe part but we had races where we got first, second, third and fourth.”
Top races included Northville senior Jake Lane who came home with three gold’s. One was from one person canoeing (C1), two person canoeing (C2) with partner Albion senior Zane Havens, and the relay.
“I was excited I won the C1 race. I’ve never won it because a Havens has always won,” Lane said. “I was nervous because I was in Spain first semester and I only started canoeing again two weeks ago. I thought my endurance was going to fail me.”
Another top race included Alli Wilburn, Rockville sophomore who was third in kayaking.
“This National championship was a blast and the competition was intense,” Wilburn said about the competition. “Our training helped us gain confidence and Keith’s coaching got us really well prepared for the river. And our team was really supportive to each other as well as cheering on the other teams.”
But overall the fifth National Championship was no shock. In men’s C1 canoeing, Albion got first, second, third, fourth, sixth, seventh, tenth, eleventh and nineteenth. Women’s C1 posted an impressive first, third, fourth, fifth and sixth. This year in C2 they allowed teams to be co-ed so Albion walked away with first, second, third and fourth out of thirty teams.
Coach Havens have a long illustrious history with canoeing. Haven’s grandfather and granduncle qualified to the Paris 1924 Olympics, the first one to have canoeing. His grandfather stayed at home for a newborn son and his job but Haven’s granduncle got three firsts and a second. His father qualified for four Olympics and went to one. Haven’s himself qualified for one national Olympic trial and one Regional. He holds 30 to 40 National Championship titles both in C1 and C2.
Canoe Club’s national success is credited to both Haven’s talent and knowledge of canoeing and Albion College’s students who come out to learn without having set practice times.
“We have good canoes and kayaks but we have the best riggings for racing,” Havens said. “We teach the students to read the river, where the current is quickest and I’ve taught them a distinct padding style that I’ve learned from experience. We teach them how to race, not just how to canoe.”