PL’s World Rafting Championships Preview!

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World Rafting Champs Head to Korea
U.S. men’s team hopes to better third-place finish in 2005; women strive to top sixth-place showing

When the women and men’s U.S. raft teams head to the World Rafting Championships on Korea’s Naerinchon River in the mountainous Gangwon Province June 27 to July 2, no town will be watching more closely than Vail, Colo. Both of the teams representing the U.S. at the event–which celebrates the International Raft Federation’s 10th anniversary and pits teams from 42 countries against one another in sprint, slalom and downriver events—hail from Vail, and is spearheaded by the husband/wife duo of Chris (AKA “Mongo”) and
Lisa Reeder, long-time guides for Vail’s Timberline Tours. They’re also both trained by fellow local Topper Hagerman, a former trainer for the U.S. Ski Team.

With Korea fielding its first-ever team and hoping to capitalize on its home-water advantage, the race course is in the heart of UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site Mt. Sorak National Park, offering clean water, easy access, swift rapids and breathtaking scenery. The Naerinchon–whose 39 outfitters see 150,000 rafters annually–is a low-volume mountain river which swells during the Monsoon season in late-June, which should play to the U.S. teams’ strengths.

U.S. Men’s Team
While he might have said “I do” to women’s team captain Lisa on the alter, when it comes to captaining the U.S. Men’s Team in Korea Chris “Mongo” Reeder is all about “I dig.” By that, he means digging his paddle in deep and strong, and digging deep inside to better the U.S. Men’s team’s third-place showing at the last World’s in Ecuador. While they took fifth in slalom and won the sprint, they lost time in the downriver, with Russia surging to first overall and the Czechs taking second. While the team’s third-place showing was the best finish ever by a U.S. Men’s team, they’re hoping for the top of the podium in Korea.

Joining him on the 2007 team are Mike Reid, Chip Carney, Brent Redden, Todd Toledo and Olli Dose. The only difference from the team that took third in Ecuador is the addition of Redden in place of Ben Bungartz (who moved to South Africa to build sailboats). Mongo likes his team’s chances. “We’ve been consistently getting better in the last two World Championships, and we’ve stepped up our training,” says Reeder, who has guided rivers throughout the U.S for 15 years and has been a member of the Men’s U.S. Team for the last three. “We’ve been in our boat together four nights a week for a few months, doing a variety of different workouts, including interval, tempo, cardio and downriver work, and are doing resistance training in the gym.”

Before Ecuador, the team–which lists only one paddler under the age of 30–had won four national titles but hadn’t reached the podium in three previous World Championship events. So they re-dedicated themselves to the cause, training on early winter morning runs on the Shoshone section of the Colorado and committing to a grueling weight training program—the exact same program they’re following now in preparation for Korea. “We all wanted it bad in Ecuador, and want it even more so now,” says team member Toledo. “We suffered together and gave up individual paddling strengths to work as a team.”

The loss in Ecuador fuels their fire for this year’s event, and they’ve been training in areas they feel need it. “We weren’t the best in Downriver, so we’re trying to address that by catering our training accordingly,” says Mongo, whose team went to Costa Rica for the Pan Am Championships last October, where they placed second to Brazil. “Slalom is tougher for us–the Europeans have an edge in that. But the sprint should play to our favor. It starts in a flat pool and then you have to battle for one line through the main rapid. We’re good at bullying people around, and are probably the biggest team competing.”

Leading the weight category is newcomer Redden, who clocks in at 210 lbs. “We’re trying to get him down to 200,” says Mongo. “In fact, the whole team is on a diet.” The weight loss is to take better advantage of the race rafts’ 13-foot size, which Team USA weighs down considerably. “We just got the dimensions of the race oats, and they’re about like the 13-foot Hysides we use on technical runs guiding in Colorado,” says Mongo.

Though they’re likely to face stiff competition from the defending champion Russians, the Czechs who won it the year before, and the ever-powerful Germans, the U.S. have a good a shot as any at the ultimate prize. “They should feel very proud of themselves from their result in Ecuador, and they stand a great chance in Korea,” says event co-organizer Mark Joffe. “The Russian and Czech teams are much younger and better funded, but the U.S. has brought itself up to another level of racing.”

U.S. Women’s Team
After winning the U.S. Nationals on the Colorado River’s Class V Gore Canyon last August, the U.S. Women’s Rafting Team, again all from Vail and led by Lisa Reeder, retained its authority to represent the U.S. in Korea at the end of June. Once there, they hope to better their finish from the 2005 Worlds in Ecuador, where they ended the event sixth overall, despite a strong third-pace showing in Downriver.

“I think we have a great opportunity to do well in the Worlds this year,” says Reeder. “We’re ready and have been on water since early April. Everyone was on a weight program in the gym all winter, and it’s a great time to be racing because as everyone’s not worn out from working hard all summer.”

Reeder adds that, as with the men, slalom is the team’s weakest event, with the Kiwis, Czechs and Slovaks being the main teams to beat. “Luckily, we’ve had the chance to train on the Eagle River this spring with the slalom course the men’s team set up,” she says. “We definitely plan on being competitive in the slalom this year, which should help our overall placing. We have a cohesive, strong, positive team who thinks they can win, so who knows.”
Who are the women representing the good ol’ U.S. of A? Following is a closer look (sorry men’s team, PL’s only showing profiles of the gals).

LISA REEDER– Team Captain- Middle Right
Lisa grew up in Marin County, California, always passionate about the outdoors. After earning a track scholarship to the University of Colorado, she found her way to Vail, Colorado, in 1994, where she took up kayaking and whitewater rafting. She became a member of the women’s raft team in 1998 and has been a part of it ever since (except, and we can excuse her for this, for taking time out to have two kids). She works as the sales and marketing director of Timberline Tours where she and husband, Mongo, are part owners. Her strongest attribute? Being able to carry a child in one arm, and raft paddle in the other.

DAWN VOGELER– Front Left
Dawn is from Chappaqua, New York, and spent her college career at the University of Miami as a member of the women’s crew team. After earning her Bachelor’s degree in Health Science she becasme a member of the U.S. Olympic development crew team in 1995 and an Olympic Festival bronze medalist. After ski patrolling at Vail for five years, she now works as a paramedic in the Vail Valley and enjoys any athletic endeavor she can get her hands on, including telemark skiing, biking and kayaking. She’s been a part of the U.S. Women’s raft team since 2001 and has paddled in World Championship races in the U.S., Zambia, Czech Republic and Ecuador.

LIZZIE BURNETT– Front Right
Lizzie is the southernmost rafter of the bunch, hailing from Greenville, South Carolina, and pursuing such sports as soccer, swimming, triathlons, kayaking, skiing, hiking and biking most of her life. After graduating from Clemson University with a BA in Psychology, she moved to Colorado on a whim, planning to stay for four months and ending up settling down. Now a paramedic in the Vail Valley, she has been on the team since 2002 and has been a huge asset to its development.

JODY SWOBODA– Back Left
Jody spent her early years in Apple Valley, Minnesota. After graduating with a business suit from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, she exchanged it for a wet suit and fulfilled her dream as a raft guide for Timberline Tours in Vail, Colorado. A member of the team since 2003, she’s spent the past seven years accumulating thousands of river miles while kayaking, guiding and racing in the U.S., Chile, Argentina, New Zealand and India.

JESSICA MCGOWAN-Back Right
Jess is perhaps the strongest paddler on the team, with the ripped abs to show for it. A top-notch telemark skier, mountain biker and rafter, she has an intense drive and relentless organization, and is a strong addition to the team, occupying the crucial back right position. While she regularly trounces men in her other recreational pursuits, she’s hoping to do so to the other women’s teams in Korea.

JAIME PASSCHIER-Middle Paddler
Jaime, originally from Rockford, Michigan, ran cross country in high school and at Hope College, where she earned a degree in Language Arts and Kinesiology while summering in Estes Park, Colo. She moved to the state in 2001, and loves to mountain bike, run, telemark, ski and play on the river. She’s been a raft guide since 2001 working on Clear Creek and the Arkansas and Colorado rivers, and when the snow starts to fall is a third grade teacher in Eagle-Vail.

KATHLEEN GARCIA– Middle Paddler
Kathleen was born in Yuma, Arizona, and is a fourth generation Yuman. She moved to Vail in 1997 and is a Beaver Creek Ski Patrol in the winter, and runs her own flower business in the summer. She’s been involved with the Timberline Women’s team for many years, and if there are flowers at the awards celebration back home, they likely came from her.

Info: www.2007wrc.com.