The water was cold, but the paddlers were hot. After a winter that was heavier with snow than usual Spring seemed reluctant to give up any of the goods. For the US Teva Whitewater Raft Teams competing in the 2011 USRA National Championships it was exactly what they trained for. This year marked the first time the USRA National Championships were held in Oregon, specifically as part of the 2011 Upper Clackamas Whitewater Festival May 13-15 just outside of Portland.
The Championships featured four events: Sprint, Slalom, Head-to-head, and Downriver. The events determined who would represent the US in the World Championships to be held in Costa Rica October 2011. Before the races began the teams arrived and checked out the lines. Many of the competitors remarked that the most interesting part of racing on the Clackamas is probably the unexpected surging boil that occasionally hurls the boat from the desired line into a powerful eddy on either side.
Saturday was the first day of competition starting with the time trials for both men and women. The Teva Teams proved their dominance once from the very beginning. The men finished the time trial with a time of 5:24 followed by the Ark-Sharks from Breckenridge in 2nd and the Oregon Rafting Team (ORT) in 3rd. Later the Teva Women followed suit finishing with a time of 6:03 followed by the Red Lady’s team from Salida in 2nd and Team Wow from Oregon in 3rd.
The dominance of the Teva teams comes as little surprise to the other competitors. While other teams only get to train a couple times a month, “The U.S. Teva Whitewater Raft team trains together three to four times a week”, said team member Chris Reeder, 42, of Vail, Colo. Also, he added, “the [Teva] team has won the national championship eight years in a row.”
Up until five years ago the Championships were always held in Colorado, where the best teams train. But as the sport has gained popularity, non-Colorado teams have been pushing for other locations. The Oregon rafting teams might not have won the Championship, but they feel like they’ve accomplished something nonetheless.
In the Down River event the Teva Men’s team pulled ahead quickly and held the lead for forty minutes of grueling work and six miles of rapids through the finish. Alas, there was no home-river advantage for the ORT who trains on the Clackamas and are familiar with obstacles like “The Toilet Bowl”. They finished 3rd, almost two minutes behind the Teva team. The women’s event was a much more exciting competition. At the start of the race The Red Lady’s got out in front first. Then, at the initial turn, the Teva Women were able to make a brilliant pass on the outside and take the lead, which they held until just below the first rapid. In return, The Red Lady’s team made their pass on a right hand turn and pulled in front. From there to the end of the race, the two teams were locked in a battle for position. It wasn’t until the last mile of the race that the Teva Women were able to make the final pass of the day and win the event.
Sunday was host to the Slalom and Head-to-head Sprint events. No surprise, the Teva Men’s and Women’s teams came out on top. The slalom course was a long one and included a tricky 3-gate downstream offset combination that had even the Teva Men’s team shaking their heads in frustration. In their 1st run alone they touched two gates and missed another two entirely. No worries though, the Teva Women’s team showed them how it’s done in their 1st run only missing one gate. It was the Teva Men’s 2nd run that won the event for them, making all the gates and finishing with only two touches.
Sunday afternoon was the setting for the Head-to-head Sprint races. Again the Teva Men’s and Women’s teams dominated making it a clean sweep for all events. The wins secured their places at the World Championships in Costa Rica in October.