The Missouri Whitewater Championships returned to the St. Francis River over the weekend.
The event brings hundreds of people to the community with many staying to camp, shop and enjoy the area over the three-day event. This year, 65 racers from 10 states came out to participate. There were also roughly 100 volunteers.
Hundreds of spectators came out to enjoy the wonderful weekend weather.
“The weekend went great,” race director Jim Warren said. “We had plenty of water. Personally I was happy that the river didn’t come up quickly on Friday, so the downriver, which I ran, was about 4 inches, versus zero inches on Thursday. We were shuttling cars before the race in a deluge, but the sun came out for the race, and it was relatively dry the rest of the evening.”
Warren said the weather on Saturday and Sunday was some of the best the races have ever had.
“We were still timing racers after 5 p.m. on Saturday, and nobody seemed to mind,” Warren said. “It was just a nice day to hang out at the river. Sunday was really short. We were done in about 3 hours. I think everyone was worn out from the long day Saturday.”
Rain on Friday did raise the river and made for an interesting day of races on Saturday. During the slalom event, several boaters ended up in the river as they attempted a gate placed at the bottom of “big drop.”
Safety officers were always right there to help and each competitor made it safely to shore, along with his or her boat.
Canoeist Scott Swafford said this year’s slalom course, designed by Chuck McHenry, was one of the most difficult he has ever tried to navigate.
“Kevin ‘Slim’ Olson, my OC-2 slalom partner, managed a second-place finish despite nearly capsizing, taking on a bunch of water, stopping to bail and missing several gates,” Swafford said. “By contrast, though, the top OC-2 men’s team, Mike Warren and Dan Prater, managed to get through the entire course and touching only one gate.”
Spectators could see the entire slalom course from atop the many large rock formations making it particularly fun to listen to the announcers and hear the start and finish horns sound.
As always, the championships show the sport is for anyone with this year’s competitors ranging from the youngest at 13 years old to the oldest competitor in their 70s.
If you would like information about recreational paddling or on how to get involved with the Missouri Whitewater Association, visit missouriwhitewater.org
“I’d like to thank everyone,” Warren said. “We had about 100 volunteers and hundreds of spectators watch our racers go down the course, and enjoy the great weather. We couldn’t do it without everyone helping to make it happen.”
Warren said the race committee did a great job finding all the volunteers, setting up the race and everything else that goes into making the weekend a success. He said he is already looking forward to next year.
Victoria Kemper is a reporter for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-783-3366 or at email@example.com