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Saturday, April 20, 2002 - Sunday, April 21, 2002 -- Ohiopyle, PA
USACK Team Trials (iPO Event Id#: 4847)
Story by Chris Norbury with photos by Colleen Laffey

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

Bob Vernon
Bob Vernon speeds on by
The Lower Yough in Pennsylvania has long been a site for paddling events of all kinds, from slalom and wildwater Team Trials and Nationals to the Ohiopyle Falls race in recent years. Increasing raft and recreational traffic have made it increasingly difficult to stage a high profile race on the most popular section of the river, with the last Team trials being held on the site in the early 90's. As such the effort by Team Friendsville, led by former squirt boater innovator Jess Whittemore, to host the 2002 Wildwater Team Trials was a return to the glory days of the Yough, as a racing venue. After almost a year of work, negotiating with the Yough outfitters, the Park Service, the town of Ohiopyle, and potential sponsors the trials were held successfully on the third weekend of April.

Paddlers from as far away as Washington State and California flocked to the Yough to experience a steady 3.3ft level that produced a great course. The Saturday Classic course ran from Entrance to No-Name rapid, following the trend of shorter wildwater races by reducing the length of the course from that which finished at River's End in the 1973 Nationals and in the more recent Mid Atlantic Downriver Series (MADS) races.

Race Pic
Yikes, this could be trouble
Sunday's course was a dual sprint through Entrance and Cucumber, a testing course with numerous choices of line to consider. Overall rankings were decided by combining the sprint race times, then comparing them to the percentage of the race winner's time on both Saturday and Sunday. Racing was fast and furious, with spots on both the World Championship team in Italy, and the World Cup series in Slovenia, Austria and the Czech Republic on the line.

In Men's K1 Andrew McEwan returned from flatwater training in California to take the honors in the classic but, despite posting the fastest individual time in the sprint, lost out over the two runs to Chris Hipgrave. Behind those two, Middy Tilghman cemented his position on the team with a pair of solid sprint runs. In 4th Simon Beardmore survived a scare as he flipped off of a curling wave in Cucumber during his second sprint run. Opinions at the finish were divided as to whether Simon crossed the line with his head above the water, a requirement for qualification. After consultation of video evidence it was decided that there was no evidence with which to disqualify Simon, so his position just ahead of local Dave Hammond stood. In his first year of racing Dave was lightning quick, but a mistake in Railroad in the Classic lost him 25 seconds, and probably attendance at the World Championship.

Race Pic
Finding the right line
In Womens' K1 Chara O'Brien stormed back to take first after two strong sprint runs, but ended only 0.08% ahead of Jennie Goldberg in two intense days of racing. Classic winner Amy Dingle had to content herself with third after a mistake in Entrance during her second sprint run meant she ran Cucumber backwards in a downriver boat - no mean achievement at this level.

In C1 National Champion Tom Wier dominated the field sadly lacking the injured Mike Beavers. Stalwart wildwater team member Chris Osment took second ahead of Bob Bofinger, who belied his lack of white water practice by posting an impressive Classic run in third. In fourth newcomer Ed Gordon ditched his wildwater C2 to take the final World Championship spot, whilst former team member Mike Harris failed to qualify in C1 as he swam across the line in his sprint run.

He wasn't the only one to have trouble, as hitting the big waves at Cucumber after sprinting full out for well over a minute produced a number of incidents, including a phenomenal effort from longtime Yough paddler Chris Iezzoni who sculled across the line with his head only inches from the water to record a time.

Race Pic
Muscling down the Yough
Overall the event was a great time had by all, with the racing the most competitive at trials for a long while. With the Wildwater World Cup coming to the Kern river in California in 2003, this can only be a good thing. Many thanks must go to Jess Whittemore and the many volunteers of Team Friendsville for the huge effort they put in to stage this race.

The organizers and competitors were grateful for support from Immersion Research, the Falls City Pub and Restaurant, Prijon, the Ohiopyle Trading Post, Wilderness Voyageurs, Whitewater Adventures, the Little Falls Wildwater Club, Riversport School of Paddling, Precision Rafting, Ohiopyle Prints, Mountain Surf, High Mountain Sports, Laurel Highlands, Ohiopyle State Park, Airtight Inflatables and the Army Corps of Engineers.