Colorado Rocky Mountain School hosts Crystal River Kayak Races | PostIndependent.com

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Colorado Rocky Mountain School hosts Crystal River Kayak Races

Kelley Cox Post Independent

CARBONDALE, Colorado ” Some attacked the chocolate-brown Crystal River waters with play boats, others with professional-grade equipment.

Some were first-timers and others were race loyalists.

All were engaging in an activity they loved: boating one of the innumerable amazing rivers the Roaring Fork Valley offers up.

For the 44th time in as many years, Colorado Rocky Mountain School treated kayakers and canoers to a good time at its Crystal River Kayak Races on Sunday.

Sunny skies and relatively warm, gusting winds served as the backdrop for a day of slalom racing, which began at noon under the Crystal River Bridge in Carbondale.

The PVC pipe slalom gates swayed in the wind ” adding to the course’s degree of difficulty ” as the day’s action began. Shooting into the water one a time, riders carefully weaved through each gate ” some requiring boaters to thread while traveling downstream and others upstream.

Participants spanned the likes of competitive high schoolers ” CRMS students prominent among them ” and community members of all ages and skill levels. The Crystal River Races were the third in the five-race Colorado High School Whitewater Cup Series.

There were plenty of non-high schoolers racing as well, though.

Aspenite Trevor Lalonde, sporting a bright yellow playboat kayak for his slalom runs, was among those just out for a good time.

“I’ve always enjoyed water sports,” he said. “I pretty much just saw something in the paper and figured I’d check it out.”

CRMS students Juan Pablo Alcocer and Sage Franz also made a fun go of it, teaming up to race in a tandem kayak. Fresh off a slalom run, the two were all smiles.

Franz, a junior, only began kayaking three months ago in one of the best prep kayaking programs in the state of Colorado.

The CRMS program is all-inclusive, catering to both beginners and experts, like national comp veterans Jake Sakson and Fred Norquist.

“It’s a great program,” Franz said.

And it’s a program with heavy participation. Thirty-five of CRMS’s 150 students are on the kayaking team, though only 16 compete.

“They have to at least complete the beginning program and have a good roll,” CRMS kayak coach Peter Benedict said. “We range from beginners to some of the better paddlers in the nation.”

Sakson and Molly Holmes scored the highest slalom junior finishes for CRMS, with Sakson finishing second in the men’s junior division and Holmes finishing in the same spot in the women’s junior race.

The most impressive run of the day, not surprisingly, came from men’s champ Kevin Michelson. Michelson, a former United States Canoe/Kayak Team member, easily outpaced the men’s slalom field. After a successful competitive career that included an appearance at the 2000 Olympic Trials and a few World Cup races, Michelson pretty much sticks to local races these days.

With a 4-year-old kid and busy career, there just isn’t a lot of time for the water these days.

“(I’m not out there) often enough,” he said. “I’ve been out once this calendar year, and this would be No. 2.”

The Crystal River Races are a yearly given for Michelson, who lives in Snowmass. He says he doesn’t get hit up too much for tips or advice from some of the younger paddlers, which he’s fine with. He’s just happy to see others embracing the sport he loves.

“I think everyone knows you have to put in a lot of hard work, a lot of getting in your boat,” he said. “Were all just chasing sticks and paddling in circles.”