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Saturday, March 17, 2001 - Tuesday, March 20, 2001 -- Point Pleasant, PA
2001 Wildwater Team Trials (iPO Event Id#: 2695)
Story by Chris Norbury with photos by Emmy Truckenmiller

[Details] [Coverage] [Overall Results] [Results by Class] [Pic Set 1] [Pic Set 2]

US Wildwater Team Trials were held on Tohickon Creek, PA from March 17th to 20th. Given that this was an "off" year, with a Pre-Worlds, rather than a World Championships to aim for, there was a good turnout, with paddlers attracted from as far away as Washington State in the West, and Alabama and New Hampshire in the East.

Andrew McEwan
With only 2 days of open practice, the challenge for everyone was to learn what turned out to be a technical and challenging course, that could be hard on boats in such a short period of time. Saturday's practice provided some spills for some, particularly in the Race Course rapid, which was the site of the sprint. Water levels dropped through the day, as run-off from the rain the night before declined, but this was compensated for as the amount of water released from the dam was increased on Monday and Tuesday for the race. Saturday night saw boat control, with Andrew McEwan having the lightest K1 (10.1kg), despite a large amount of patching on the nose and tail, and Tom Wier having the lightest C1 (11.1kg). Bob Bofinger displayed an ancient Rockschmitt C1 that looked so much like a fossil that we all thought he had dug it up, and it weighed in as the heaviest boat at 18.8kg. With repairs over the next couple of days it surely tipped the scales at well over 19kg.

Dave Bonomo
As Monday dawned it became obvious the start would have to be delayed as we waited for the water. It finally arrived, and we all warmed up on our way to the Race Course rapid, around halfway down the course. This sprint course was short, but technical, with an almost infinite number of routes to choose from. Over the weekend many paddlers had struggled to come to terms with this complicated rapid, whilst others had carefully compared routes and then jealously guarded the secret of which route they considered the fastest. At the top of the rapid there was a clear choice.

The left line was down a slide into a shallow route, where a larger proportion of the water was flowing, but the approach took a circuitous route. On the right a 2-3 foot ledge offered a narrow slot that had much easier access from the top, but a much greater possibility of losing time if any mistakes were made. Further down the course two ledges provided more obstacles, with the opportunity for hitting the boat and losing time at each.

Middy Tilghman
Again there was a choice between left and right, although during the race runs Chris Hipgrave demonstrated a third choice, boofing off a rock in his 14ft race boat, right in the middle. At the bottom of the rapid was another opportunity to pick a faster or more conservative line. Down the left a slide lead into large waves, with the opportunity to hit the boat, but a good line could produce a clean run down either the left or right side of the waves to the finish. In the center a narrow line provided a much more direct route, giving a faster line to the right of the waves, but with added potential for a piton of an exposed rock.

Chara O'Brien
After the first sprint runs National Champion Tom Wier was 4 seconds ahead of Mike Beavers, with George Lhota edging out Bob Bofinger by 0.1 seconds to take third. National team member Chris Osment span out into an eddy, losing 10-15 seconds, and putting himself out of contention, at least for the sprint. In Women's K1 World Championship veteran Kari Crowe lead by over 2 seconds from Morgantown resident and longtime boater Chara O'Brien, paddling a glass wildwater boat for only the second time, with Seattle's own Jennie Goldberg in third. In Men's K1 sprint expert Middy Tilghman lead the field by less than half a second from Chris Norbury, with Andrew McEwan even closer in third.

With the second and final run in C1, Tom Wier extended his lead, again taking 4 seconds out of Mike Beavers, and again George Lhota beat Bob Bofinger by 0.1 seconds to take third, with only 0.2 seconds separating the two in over 3 minutes of racing. In Women's K1 it was all change, with Chara O'Brien growing in confidence in her wildwater boat to go nearly 2 seconds faster and move ahead of Kari Crowe, with Cheryl Shiber moving ahead of Jennie Goldberg to take third. In the Men's K1, Andrew McEwan completed the course over 2 seconds faster than his first run, but Middy Tilghman also upped the ante to stay in front. In third Chris Hipgrave moved up, taking advantage of a disastrous run by Chris Norbury that dropped him from 2nd to 7th, and out of the running for selection.

The nature of wildwater
On Tuesday the classic race ran from the put-in to take out, and included the East Coast Junior selection race, as well as the final selection race for the seniors. The first 8-10 minutes consisted of small chop, punctuated by larger waves, with a lot of scope for saving time by taking shorter lines down the inside of corners, even if out of the current. The river than became steeper, with a number of ledges with very defined lines, including the race course rapid that came at a time when some were realizing they had already consumed too much energy. The run out from the ledges included a number of tricky smaller rapids, where again time could be picked up by taking faster lines.

In the junior event Russell Johnson, who raced C2 at the Junior World Championship last year, showed that he doesn't need his brother (and C2 partner) to go quickly, and took the honors ahead of Chris Davis. In the Junior Women's event Shannon Reeves edged out a resurgent Beth Karp, with Kathryn Dyer in third. In the Men's event Joe Barkley paddled away from Clay Wilder, with Andrew Waxman in third. In the senior event Mike Beavers showed his greater aerobic capacity to beat out Tom Wier, who almost caught Chris Osment (3rd) for a minute at the line. In the Women's event Kari Crowe showed why she gained selection to the US Marathon Team last year with a strong display over the longer distance, with National Champion Jennie Goldberg battling a heavily damaged boat in second, and Chara O'Brien in third. In the Men's event Andrew McEwan showed why he is National Champion, overtaking Middy Tilghman for a minute, and finishing nearly a minute clear of second placed Chris Hipgrave. In third Tilghman narrowly edged out local Dave Bonomo, with another local Ted Newton missing the opportunity to capitalize on a good run after flipping and losing time at the final ledge.

Overall it was an excellent weekend of racing, with good competition in all classes. Mention must be made of our sponsors, who helped with the water releases, publicity, organization and prizes. They are;

  • Pennsylvania DCNR
  • Maximum Whitewater Performance
  • Shred Ready
  • Kokatat
  • Mountain River Outfitters
  • Immersion Research
  • Truckenmiller Designs
  • Glen Echo Pottery
  • Little Falls Wildwater Club
In addition there were a huge number of volunteers who helped. At the risk of leaving out some of those who helped I would like to thank;
  • Ted Newton
  • Renee Gellblat
  • Joel Reeves
  • Ben Sandiford
  • Barbara Karp
  • Emmy Truckenmiller
  • Paul Grabow
  • Howard
  • Rich Kulawiec
  • Plus everyone else for their help and support
I'd like to wish the organizers of the upcoming Wildwater Nationals (August on the Pigeon River) and whoever organizes next years Team Trials, the best.

Paddlers selected for the wildwater team to travel to Europe were as follows;

Men's K1
1.  Middy Tilghman
2.  Andrew McEwan
3.  Chris Hipgrave
4.  Steve Kauffman
5.  David Bonomo
6.  Ted Newton

Women's k1
1.  Jennie Goldberg
2.  Cheryl Shiber

1.  Michael Beavers
2.  Chris Osment
3.  Bob Bofinger

Junior C1 (2 more selected at West Coast Trials)
1.  Russell Johnson
2.  Chris Davis

Junior Women's K1 (2 more selected at West Coast Trials)
1.  Shannon Reeves
2.  Beth Karp

Junior Men's K1
1.  Joe Barkley
2.  Clay Wilder