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2021 Spring Fling

Spring Fling Post Race Recap. 4-12-21

This past Saturday was the kick off to Michigan’s race season. This year’s Spring Fling took the place of what would have normally been the Klondike, a race so prestigious it is often called the “Super Bowl” of canoe racing. However, as we all know, with Covid things change. Thanks to the great people within the Michigan Canoe Racing Association, John and Cheryl Lucey, and Jim from Penrod’s, this year’s change brought the race back to Grayling for the first time in… (where’s Ryan Matthews when you need him) a long time.

Let’s dive in, our Michigan community showed out in full force this weekend proving that despite the challenges our society faces on a weekly basis with Covid one thing will remain the same, people love racing. With a total of 21 C2 teams and 26 C1’s, it equated to 68 racers on the river on April 10th. I am new to the Klondike scene, but I’d venture a guess that makes for a damn good turnout historically. Race format was that of chaos, but that’s what happens when you have to start 21 teams on a river that’s about 20 feet wide. Rolling starts for both c1 and c2 waves made for full contact canoe racing for about the first mile of the race.

Heat 1, in the order of starting position, (odd numbers on the left side of the bank, even numbers on the right side of the bank) featured the likes of:

1. LJ Bourgeois – Nikki Owens 2. Danny Medina – Matt Meersman

3. Doug Dalman – Brad Wilson 4. Tad Hill - Mary Schlimmer

5. Ben Tarbutton - Dave Smith 6. Mike Davis – Zac Childs

7. Wes Dean – Weston Willoughby 8. Carson Burmeister – Ryan Halstead

9. Zack Cheney – Mike Garon 10. Austin Weiler – Kyle Stonehouse

As a legend once said “there has never been a false start in a rolling start race.” It started off with contact and almost no space to paddle for just about every racer with the exception of Danny and Matt who managed to get into clean water quick and escape early from the pack. Given the length of the race, racers knew this would be a factor and that a clean start would be crucial to having a successful race. Wes and Weston seemed to navigate the chaos next best finding a lane up the right (even though they started on the left) and beginning their chase. Things began to smooth out just past the old sprint course buoy. The start ended well for some teams and others found themselves on the opposite end of the pack from where they started, most notably Dalman and Wilson found themselves in an unfortunate position. After starting near the front, by the old sprint course buoy they were at the back of the first heat.

By the I-75 bridge, Wes and Weston had caught Medina and Meersman. Burmeister and Halstead had managed to get by Davis and Childs and rounding out the top 5 was the always fast Mary Schiimmer and Tad Hill. As the race approached spider cut Medina and Meersman seemed to enter the next gear and leave Wes and Weston behind them just before the upstream portion. Lines were an important factor going upstream and the shallow water proved no issue to Danny Paddle and the light Meersman as they cruised up stream putting just over and minute on second place. The teams of Stonehouse and Weiler and Wilson and Dalman both made up time and places going up stream as well, finishing 5th and 7th respectively.

Other notables from Heat 1 include Ben Tarbutton and Dave Smith who time in and time out seem to get faster and smoother. There is no doubt big things coming from these two individuals on the racing front. Nikki Owens and LJ won out on the most exciting moment of the day sprinting to the line against Rob Shadley and Aaron Putman. LJ and Nikki continue to improve, kudos to both of these individuals on a solid weekend. Zac Childs, only 18 and beginning to threaten the podium… have to keep an eye on the ladies and gentlemen from Bay City. Lastly, RIP to Zack Cheney’s boat, if you have any serious experience racing you have probably found yourself paddling with 2-4 inches of continuous water in the bottom of the boat at one time or another. You have to feel for Garon and him as they found one of the stakes in the river and ripped a long gash in the side of the boat. No doubt the boat will be fine but you hate to see it on the first race weekend of the year.

Heat 2, Starting order was as follows:

Dave Teddy/Rylan Teddy Roxanne Barton/Rebecca Davis

Jacob Cramer/Matthew Rudy Katelyn Moore/Drew Moore

Chase Matthews/Rod Elliot John Lucey/Cheryl Lucey

Ryan Childs/Chuck Hewitt Lynne Witte/Tom Cannon

Levi Korneli/Garret Garner Bryce Martin/Mickey Kimsel

Jenna Cooke/Jessica Pieri

The second heat featured a good mixed of experience veterans and hungry new comers and young guns. Let’s start by saying, it’s safe to say Rebecca Davis is picking right back up where she left off as her and Roxanne looked excellent. They ran away with the second heat and managed to pass two teams from the first heat as well. Rob Shadley and Aaron Putman were good for second in heat 2 and 10th on the day as they too continue to improve. The next few boats consisted of Ryan Childs/Chuck Hewitt, Tom Cannon/Lynne Witte, and Dave Teddy/Rylan Teddy. Those are some competitors that know how to race down the Ausable come the end of July. LEGENDS. Rylan is no doubt in a good boat with his father, and Ryan Childs had a great sternie in Chuck Hewitt.

Another boat that deserves a shoutout, Drew Moore and his sister Katelyn are rumored to have ran a very clean and smart race. These two are figuring things out, and as we know a smooth boat is a fast boat. Good work guys and keep it up!

Lastly, lets dive into the C1 race. Admittedly my recap is a little dependent on looking at the results as I was caught up in my own race. If one thing is a given though, It’s that the c1 racers had the most complex and difficult race to navigate. Starting last, the heats of C1’s were passing C2 teams within minutes of the start of their race. As a result, their races’ were certainly the most hectic. The top 5 c1’s went as follows:

1. Jorden Wakeley

2. Steve Watson

3. Matt Gabriel

4. Eric Batway

5. Buzzy Hartman

Wakeley will likely be tough to beat in both a c1 and c2 all year. He has partnered his athletic pedigree with many hours of training in the canoe this spring, and will no doubt be a factor in any of the big races we manage to have this year (Watch our for Team #63 in the marathhon this year).

Watson, Gabriel, and Batway are perennial fast guys at this point. They are staples near the top of c1 results and it’s no surprise to see them there to start the season. Shoutout to Buzzy Hartman for coming out of nowhere and finishing top 5, it’s been a couple years since he’s been active in the racing seen. David Hawkins finished 8th just behind another all-time great in Bruce Barton. On the women’s front, Kristi Treston looked to be moving good as he crossed the line first followed by Sarah Webb and Diana Jurewiczse. If you listened to the recent podcast, you know the state of the women's field this year. It’s going to be strong.

All in all, what a great weekend of racing and even better company. I have missed the canoe racing community, and I know many of you have as well. I’m looking forward too many more race days like Saturday. Also, I’d like to formally thank Katie Mahaffy for saving my paddle this weekend. I swear I meant to throw it into the shallow water.

Thanks for reading the first of what is hopefully many race recaps this year and until next time stay fast.

See everyone at TNRL!

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