The 2008 Cheat Canyon Downriver Race is in the books.
For the third year in a row, we had great racing conditions. Temperatures in West Virginia were around 70 to 75 degrees, a little warm, but no rain at all. As a bonus, the rain all fell the prior day, making the water levels almost perfect. I say ‘almost’ because some might say it was maybe a little to high, as the Cheat river was running around 3.5 feet on the Route 26 bridge gauge (more on this later).
“This Cheat Race was an incredible experience,” says Jason Beakes, who finished third in the B Class (non wildwater boats over 12-feet) and seventh overall. “It’s pretty amazing to mass start with over 130 people!”
The attendance was outstanding. We had a total of 151 pay to enter the race. Due to the water levels being on the high side, not all those people entered the race though. We had a few people drop out, some deciding to not race at the last minute, and some deciding to instead help with safety. Around 131 to 135 people finished the race, in varying degrees (as some were rafted out, etc).
Back to the issue regarding the water level and people not finishing the race. Some people might say the water was perfect, but 3.5 is not an easy level, especially when you are going full-out during a race. While I’m still collecting stories (it’s tough getting feedback from 150 people), it would appear we did have some action this year. Big Nasty would get a few people, but there was some carnage down at Colosseum. Initial reports are that we had six racers crash and burn. We also had a raft full of racers wipe out. We also lost one of our safety rafts for a good bit of time. In all, two guys would lose their boats at the rapid, one of which was pinned at Pete Morgan for about four days. Both boats were later found, courtesy of safety boater Rich Yester (during the race) and Travis Cobb of Cheat River Outfitters, finding the Eskimo Diablo on Tuesday.
We had incredible help with the race yet again and a big props need to go out to all those volunteers. Starting a 151 person mass start race, at 5:30 at night, then getting all those people & boats out of the canyon and back to a post race party before dark,….it isn’t easy. Coordinating racers, buses, beer, shuttles, racing bibs, trucks, shuttles, food vendors, volunteers and everything else can make one nuts.
We had 22 female racers, down a little from the 27 from last year, but the water was higher this year. Its’ still a good number of women racing at a tough level, good job by all of them. We also had a new champ this year too…Susan Hollingsworth. Susan finished at 1:07:37, beating Chara Whittemore (1:09:16) by 1 minute and 39 seconds. Susan would finish 22nd overall.
Three-time winner Geoff Calhoun became a 4x winner….now tying Andrew McEwen for the most titles in the 13 year Cheat Race history. Congratulations Geoff!! Geoff would beat a group of ‘sort of’ close racers who kept close initially, but ultimately fell off during the 10 mile race. Geoff finished in 0:56:49. Coming in 2nd place was the 15-year-old boating sensation Peter Lutter at 0:58:15. That’s right, that’s not a misprint, Peter is only 15 and kicked ass in his second race, improving on his 8th place finish last year. Coming in right behind Peter (rounding out the top four) was the rocket Rodney Rice at 1:01:08 followed by Jeremy Casolo at 1:01:16.
In team race news, Team Mountain Streams didn’t win their club/company division (again) as two of their top racers got sidetracked helping their 4th teammate, Kevin Damm at Colosseum rapid. Kevin was the unfortunate winner of the ‘Titanic Award’, for the best crash and burn (he’ll get his Leonardo Dicaprio poster in the mail in a few weeks). By the time Rocky Rockwell and Nate Ober got to Kevin’s boat and rescued him, they had dropped all the way down to 127th and 128th place. Props to Rocky and Nate for helping out though, in the spirit of true sportsmanship. First place in the club/company category would ultimately fall to ‘Purple Pride’, who nailed down 9th, 13th, 16th, and 22nd. – Andy Kirby, Ben Scoville, Max Cadarette and Susan Hollingsworth.
Oh yeah…The Three Rivers Paddling Club beat their interstate nemesis, the Cleveland Keelhaulers again. That pushes the overall scorecard in the cross state rivalry to six wins for the Pittsburgh paddlers…and only two wins for the Cleveland’ers.
The fastest overall team would be in our pro division (WW boats). The Little Falls Wildwater Club simply blew everyone away. Geoff Calhoun, Peter Lutter, Adam VanGrack and Beakes all finished in the top five.
– Rick Gusic