This weekend, Albion College’s own Canoe Club will head south to compete in the American Canoe Association’s Collegiate Race Series National Championship, where they hope to defend their national championship title.
The race takes place in Dillsboro, N.C., on a short stretch of the Tuckaseegee River, a 60-mile river that flows through western North Carolina and eventually enters the Little Tennessee River. The course itself takes about 30 minutes to complete, according to Patrick Wagner, Grosse Point Farms senior and club president.
“It’s just about going as quickly as you can from the start to the finish line, making your way through the rapids, trying not to get stuck on the rocks,” Wagner said. “It’s all about reading the river and reading where the fast water is, and it’s just a lot of fun.”
In the past, Canoe Club has been led by Keith Havens, former swimming & diving head coach, but Havens retired at the conclusion of the 2011-12 year. As a result of Havens’ departure, the group has had to rely more on student leadership, something that Amy Bell, Farmington Hills junior, believes has been challenging but has ultimately brought the members of the club closer together.
“We have been blessed to have had Keith Havens expertise the in the past as he comes from a long line of medaling Olympic canoeists,” Bell said. “Unfortunately, he is not with us at Albion any longer, so this student-led group will have its work cut out for it as we attempt to defend our national title.”
Even though the club may have their work cut out for them, Alli Wilburn, Rockford junior, believes that the club will draw strength from its experience and preparation.
“We have a lot of returning members coming down as well as a large number of new members that get to experience the races for the first time,” Wilburn said. “We have been running group paddles like we have in past years to get everyone comfortable on the water, and I can’t wait to get down there and have a blast on some fun whitewater.”
Wagner agrees with both Bell and Wilburn, and believes that although it may be tough, Albion’s canoe club has the mindset necessary to defend their national championship title.
“We travel the furthest to go to this event, and all the other teams we’re competing against live on that river or near that river, but we go down there and beat them every single year,” Wagner said. “They’re more into goofing around in the river and having fun, but when we go down there, we go down there to race.”
Despite the racing mentality canoe club members pride themselves on, there is still much fun to be had, according to Wagner, and Bell agrees.
“I’m very excited and I think we have a strong enough group heading down that we still have a chance [to take first],” Bell said. “Win or lose, it is a great time racing down some exciting rapids with good friends and beautiful scenery.”