2017. My first opportunity to try to make the US Freestyle Whitewater Kayaking Team. It had been on my mind all winter. Living in Colorado is not the best place for kayak training in the winter, but my brother, Kenny, and I maintained our fitness by snowboarding and lifting weights.
As soon as boarding season was over, we packed up our RV and headed for the SouthEast for Freestyle Nationals in Columbus, GA. As well as some epic creeking and playboating in TN and NC. It was awesome, we had a lot of fun boating with our friends and family, but when it was time to head back to Colorado for the freestyle tour, we were ready.
I was stoked to learn the Team Trials competition would be in Buena Vista, CO in June. BV is one of my favorite places to go Whitewater Kayaking for a ton of reasons. There are so many great river runs, the BV features are awesome and access to the competition holes is easy! The best part, and what makes us keep returning to BV year after year, is they offer free camping during the CKS PaddleFest competition.
We arrived in Buena Vista two weeks early to start training for US Team Trials, as did everyone else. This was THE big competition for most of us this year and we had to dial in the features at different levels because with natural flows, you never know what it will look like the day of the comp.
At the beginning, the water was a little low but it was coming up and as it came up the features got a lot better. We split our time between the Upper hole, where Team Trials would take place and the lower feature where the weekend prior, CKS Paddlefest would be held.
As the comp got closer, we all got a little more nervous. I did everything I knew to do to keep myself pumped and stoked in the days before. I ate really well, I tried to get plenty of sleep and I focused on having fun in the water. Whitewater Kayaking is as much a mental game as it is about ability.
The evening before prelims, my mom made Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo. Loaded down with carbs and protein, I slept really well and woke feeling amazing.
That morning my mom woke us up and we played heavy metal music all morning so we all got pumped and excited. Kady made us pancakes, bacon and eggs for a great breakfast then we made shakes for some added protein.
We loaded up the gear and the boats and went up to the top feature where the Whitewater Kayaking US Team Trials competition would be held. Junior women were first so we watched them and cheered from our cool spot in the shade. We sat in the shade so we wouldn’t zap our energy and drank plenty of water.
Only five Junior Women were competing so it went pretty fast.
When it was time for Junior Men, I was feeling good and positive and my brother, Brody, was keeping us pumped. I knew my ride and I ran it through my head over and over. I was ready.
Kenny was in the first heat, he threw some epic rides his first ride was a 631 and his second ride was a 736 so he was pretty sure that his run put him in finals. I was stoked for him.
Next, it was my turn. I got a 670 my first run and a 813 my second run. I was pretty happy with the 813! It put me in first going into Finals.
Finals is where things got crazy. Going into finals, I was in 1st, Kenny was in 2nd, Hayden Voorhees was in 3rd, Riley Frank in 4th and Cameron O’Connor took the 5th place spot. We were all super happy to know that we made it to finals. So, we took a break, got some water, and stayed totally pumped. We then got back in our gear and boats and warmed up because finals were the same day!
The order of our finals heat was Cameron, Hayden, Riley, Kenny, then me. I had the benefit of going last. We watched everybody go for their first ride. After first rides, the standings were the same.
Second rides mixed things up a lot! Kenny’s second ride put him in second and me in first and then our friend, Hayden’s, second ride put him in fourth. Third rides put Kenny taking first with a score of 980, I placed second with a 960 and Hayden took third with an 800-something point ride! And that is the Jr Men’s USA Freestyle Kayaking Team. Kenny, me, & Hayden. This was going to be a blast.
We were all super stoked to have gotten on the podium and to be going to Argentina for the World Championships! We knew this meant our fall would be consumed by training. Whitewater Kayaking in all it’s different disciplines was about to rule the next 4 months. Not to mention, working our butts off to pay for the entire trip…but, no goals are easy, so Challenge Accepted!
I’m so happy and excited to be going to World Freestyle Kayaking Championships to compete with My sister Kady, who placed 3rd in the Pro-Women’s team trials, and my best friend and brother, Kenny. Our coaches, who happen to be our two older brother’s, Grady and Brody are hoping to come too. as is my dad. This is going to be the ultimate experience of a lifetime. I cannot wait!