Updated: Jul 31, 2019
The sophomore edition of the newest race on the Michigan Canoe Racing Association circuit took place this past weekend. Starting at the Northshore Lounge, the paddlers traveled roughly a half mile out along the shoreline before turning a buoy to return to the mouth of the Muskegon River before paddling downriver to the confluence of the river with the Deadstream Creek where they would turn another buoy. In the C1 race, competitors turned the confluence buoy and returned to the finish at the mouth of the river. In the C2 race, competitors paddled upstream to a spectator viewing point where they would turn another buoy, paddle back down to the confluence, and then return to the mouth of the river for the finish. The course was challenging in that it demanded a variety of technical skills while rewarding sheer power. Competitors traveled from near and far, with racers from Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Ontario showing up to take a crack at one of the biggest prize purses (~$5500 total) on the circuit. The festivities kicked off Friday night with 98.5 WUPS broadcasting live from Northshore Lounge during the first ever community aluminum canoe business time trials. Eight teams took to the water with Pat Witt of Jim's Collision teamed up with race promoter Sean Brabant to win the first iteration of this event along with a pair of gift cards to Northbound Outfitters.
With the winds out of the south southeast, competitors were faced with a daunting challenge to start the event both days. The traverse across the shoreline to the buoy meant paddling with a vicious cross wave that was building to a peak as it hit the shallower waters by shore. To further complicate things, the waves were rebounding and resonating an angry echo off of the steel breakwalls.
(caution-barely audible colorful language present moments before I seek a blue gill under my canoe)
Fifty three c1's would take on the challenge. In the end Danny Medina would hold on to a slim 5 second lead over second place Kyle Stonehouse. Wesley Dean finished in third, followed by Weston Willoughby in fourth with Jeff Kolka rounding out the top 5 and Mary Schlimmer winning the women's division. The Youth and Mentor races took place following the C1 race. The competitors would race on a 1.25 mile loop located just inside the mouth of the river. In the youth race, the team of Natalie Kellogg and Katie Mahaffy would find victory over Liam Mahaffy and Scott Sturgeon in second with Drake and Noah Gabriel bringing home the third spot. The victors would take home a pair of Ripple FX paddles for their efforts!
The Mentor race would find Stonehouse teaming up Mahaffy, seeking revenge on Medina for the earlier c1 race. Medina and his partner Scott Sturgeon would put up a valiant effort before being narrowly defeated by a seconds margin. Sean Brabant and his partner Izzy Harrington won the dash for third, also by exactly a one second margin over Liam Mahaffy and Austin Weiler.
Sunday's C2 race would bring more sunny skies, along with the same wind that the C1 competitors faced to start the race. Thirty two professional teams along with two amateur competitors would answer the call on the starting line.
Andy Treibold would make his return to the MCRA circuit teaming up with Kyle Stonehouse. The pair would open up a sizable lead with little challenge. Medina and Weiler partnered up to bring home second, with the team of Nick Walton and Matt Meersman recovering from a tip on the lake to bring home third. Rich Lauth and Mary Schlimmer won the mixed title taking fourth, with Billy Torongo and Ray Trudgeon rounding out the top five. Willoughby and 12 year old Dane Trudgeon would take home the state amateur championship. Lynne Witte and Gwen Hills the women's honors.
Race promoter Sean Brabant and his team of volunteers have done an outstanding job building this race up. "The Muskegon River Throw Down has grown more in two years and we hope to continue growth with pro, amateur, and youth paddlers" says Brabant. "We want to involve the entire community to boost both businesses and interests in paddling."