Forget the flowers poking their heads out of the ground. For paddlers looking to represent the U.S. at the Olympics in Rio in 2016, spring means slalom season, with the US National Whitewater Center recently hosting the 2015 US Slalom Team Trails for the ability to compete at the 2015 Pan American Olympic Qualification race and World Championships this year in London.
At last weekend’s race at Charlotte, N.C.’s US National Whitewater Center, athletes competed for a spot on Team USA and the ability to compete at the 2015 Pan American Olympic Qualification race and World Championships at the Lee Valley White Water Centre in London, England. Only the top boat in each category qualified for the Pan American Games.
The C1 Men’s category turned in some of the tightest racing of the weekend, with two-time Olympian Casey Eichfeld (Charlotte, NC) coming out on top as the overall winner. Finishing second was 2014 World Champion Fabien Lefevre (Bethesda, MD). Young Zach “Bug” Lokken (Durango, CO) put together a solid weekend of racing to once again earn himself a spot on the national team as well. Tyler Hinton (Denver, CO) took fourth by the narrowest of margins, beating former national team member Tad Dennis (Charlotte, NC) by one-tenth of a percentage, which makes him eligible to compete at the Pan Ams Olympic Qualification race and World Championships.
In the K1 Women’s race, perennial team member Ashley Nee (Darnestown, MD) won the class to earn a spot on the Pan American Games Team. In second and third were Anna Ifarraguerri (McLean, VA) and Sage Donnelly (Carson City, NV), both of whom will represent the U.S. at the Pan American Olympic Qualification race.
In Men’s K-1, it was fresh-to-the-U.S. transplants stealing the slalom show. Michal Smolen (Gastonia, NC) won the class overall, narrowly out-pacing two-time Olympic medalist Fabien Lefevre, formerly of France. Richard Powell (Gastonia, NC) finished third. Aaron Mann (Bethesda, MD) finished fourth and will compete the Pan American Olympic Qualification race and World Championships.
In Men’s C-2, Casey Eichfeld and Devin McEwan (Salisbury, CT) earned the top spot, ahead of Tad Dennis and Tyler Smith (Huntersville, NC) in second and Michal Smolen and Zach Lokken in third. Both the second and third place C2 teams will have the opportunity to compete at the Pan American Olympic Qualification race this July.
In C1 Women’s, Colleen Hickey (Mount Holly, NC) won the class with Sage Donnelly finishing second and Tracy Hines coming in third.
1. Michal Smolen
2. Fabien Lefevre
3. Richard Powell
4. Aaron Mann
1. Casey Eichfeld
2. Fabien Lefevre
3. Zach “Bug” Lokken
4. Tyler Hinton
1. Ashley Nee
2. Anna Ifarraguerri
3. Sage Donnelly
1. Colleen Hickey
2. Sage Donnelly
3. Tracy Hines
1. Casey Eichfeld and Devin McEwan
2. Tad Dennis and Tyler Smith
3. Michal Smolen and Zach Lokken