Local paddlers had some home field advantage during last week's U.S. Canoe and Kayak National Championships on the Allegheny River.
"It is an awesome experience having the USCA Nationals come to our section of the Allegheny River for marathons and Chapman State Park for sprints," Paul Gruber of the Allegheny River Competitive Paddlers said. "For the competitive paddling community across North America, the USCA Nationals importance ranks at the top."
"Think of what the World Series is to Major League Baseball, the Super Bowl to the NFL, or Daytona 500 to NASCAR," Gruber said. "That is what the Nationals mean to us competitive paddlers."
Photo submitted for publication
Paul Gruber (left) and Steve Martin of the Allegheny River Competitive Paddlers pose with the trophy they won for finishing first in the C-2 man senior marathon — fifth overall in C-2 man — Saturday during the U.S. National Canoe and Kayak Championships.
Photo courtesy of Will Arts photography/willarts.com
Lisa Bainey (left) and Teresa Stout, both of the Allegheny River Competitive Paddlers, race in the canoe marathon (C-2 women division) Saturday on the Allegheny River during the U.S. Canoe and Kayak Championships.
With low water levels having an impact on how much water the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was able to release from Kinzua Dam for the marathons, being familiar with the river gave local paddlers a significant edge.
"The advantage this year was big simply because the Army Corps' water release for the marathons was not as large as in previous years," Gruber said. "The Allegheny River Competitive Paddlers knew exactly where the deeper, faster channels of water were. The river was at nearly the same level for the races as it was the dozens of times we practiced it."
Low-water levels increase the importance of knowing the territory or being able to accurately evaluate the water quickly.
When the Corps of Engineers can release at a higher level, "all the competitors needed to do was paddle as fast as they could right down the middle of the river," Gruber said. "That levels the field for everyone, no river reading necessary."
In some of the marathons, stand-up paddleboarding for example, there were only a few entrants. In others, there were more. "In the largest mass start of the Nationals, a field of 53 men in marathon C-1s lined up from shore and waited for the gun to go off," Gruber said. "That was an unbelievable sight."
He finished 11th out those 53 - third among the senior (50-59) age category.
Among the ARCP members, those placing in their age group or overall in the marathon events were: Miranda Gruber and Laura Martin, first (overall), C-2 standard women; Miranda Gruber and Dana Leet, first (open), C-2 standard mixed; Lisa Bainey and Paul Gruber, first (overall), C-2 standard mixed; Steve Martin and Teresa Stout, fifth (senior), C-2 mixed national championship; Randy Bailey with Paul Etchepare, first (overall), C-2 man/junior; Fran Kopta with Dustin Aharrah, fourth (overall) C-2 man/youth; Bainey and Stout, third (senior), C-2 women; Steve Stoddard, first (overall), C-1 stock man; Ken Gerg, third (grand veteran 2), C-1 man; Kopta, sixth (open), C-1 man; Paul Gruber, third (senior), C-1 man; Steve Martin, third (senior), C-1 man; Mark Kopta, sixth (senior), C-1 man; Bill Kostra, fifth (veteran 1), C-1 man; Laura Martin, second (senior), C-1 woman; Gerg with Laverne Young, first (grand veteran 2), C-2 men; Paul Gruber and Steve Martin, first (senior) fifth (overall), C-2 men; Kostra with David Armstrong, third (veteran 1), C-2 men; Fran Kopta and Mark Kopta, first (overall), C-2 standard men; Pat Anderson and Leet, second (senior), C-2 standard men; Jay Skinner, fourth (senior), K-1 sea kayak man.
Bainey and Bailey (C-2 mixed) took first overall in the orienteering and Tina Fischer came in second in the K-1 woman class. Fischer also took first in her division of the biathlon event.
Local paddlers also fared well in the sprints: Fischer, second (master), K-1 woman; Bailey, first (master), C-1 man; Paul Gruber, first (overall), C-1 man; Steve Martin, second (senior), C-1 man; Gerg, ninth (veteran), C-1 man; Stout with Kara Frey, third, C-2 woman/bantam; Paul Gruber and Stout, first (overall), C-2 mixed; Bainey and Steve Martin, third (master), C-2 mixed; Bainey and Stout, first (overall), C-2 women; Paul Gruber and Steve Martin, first (overall), C-2 men; Gerg with Young, sixth (veteran), C-2 men; and Bailey with Etchepare, first, C-2 man/junior.
Full results may be found at www.uscanoe.com.