Showing that it’s a beehive of boating activity, no sooner than freestyle kayakers packed up their paddling gear after the World Kayak Freestyle Championships, Bryson City, N.C.’s Nantahala Outdoor Center hosted the National Slalom Championships on the Nantahala River, marking the last major competition of the 2013 slalom season. And just like at the freestyle champs, friendly rivalries were out in full force, with one of the best tit-for-tat showings coming between two-time Olympian Casey Eichfeld and 2008 Olympian Benn Fraker in men’s C-1 and C-2…
Eichfeld won the single canoe class while Fraker won the doubles canoe final with veteran paddler Scott McCleskey. Fraker qualified the lone C-1 slot for Team USA at the 2012 Olympics, but Eichfeld recorded the better result at the first World Cup of 2012 to edge Fraker out for the London spot.
Eichfeld finished first in C-1 with a final run time of 98.72, 1.79 seconds ahead of Fraker. Fraker and McCleskey won the C-2 final with a time of 109.55, more than 17 seconds ahead of Eichfeld and Devin McEwan.
“It was exciting getting to paddle with some good and upcoming paddlers,” says Eichfeld. “Now it’s on to training in Deep Creek for the World’s next year.”
In Women’s K-1, Dana Mann of Washington, D.C., won the gold, ahead of Maryland’s Ashley Nee and Pennsylvania’s Evelyn Van Horn. Their results mirrored the podium from the 2013 U.S. Slalom Team Trials held in May. Mann, who placed 5th at the 2013 World Championships, turned in a blistering final run of 106.17, 4.12 seconds ahead of Nee.
With recent US Team addition Fabien Lefevre from France not competing, the men’s K-1 class turned into a battle between Rick Powell and Michal Smolen, with 2008 Olympian Powell claiming the gold with a penalty-free time of 92.55, 1.38 seconds ahead of Smolen.
Illinois’s Colleen Hickey won the women’s C-1 crown with a zipping time of 127.12, more than 35 seconds ahead of Texas’s Chelsea Easley in second.
U.S. slalom paddlers will now set their sights on the 2014 calendar, highlighted by the 2014 World Championships in Western Maryland.
The National Championships also served as a qualifier for the 2014 Under-23/Junior World Championships. The following athletes qualified:
U23 K1M – Michal Smolen, Simon Ranagan (Bethesda, Md.)
U23 C1M – Zach Lokken, Elliot Bertrand (New York, NY)
U23 C2M – Elliot Bertrand/Michael Rudnitski (Herndon, Va.)
U23 K1W – Anna Ifarraguerri (McLean, Va.), Samantha Cole-Johnson (Boulder, Colo.)
Jr K1M – Tyler Uthus, Tyler Smith
Jr C1M – Gabe Machado (Louisville, Colo.), Tyler Smith
Jr C2M – Gabe Machado/Will Coggan (Boulder, Colo.)
Jr K1W – Evelyn Van Horn, Chelsey Easley
Jr C1W – Chelsey Easley