Inside the 2019 Green Race #5, The Contenders
Like every year whitewater legend Shane Benedict is covering the Annual Green Race for us at Kayak Session mag.
It seems like the only pattern these days at the Green Race is unpredictablility. Once again at the 24th Annual race, water levels are an unknown. For most of the spring and summer, the Green River has been in near drought conditions but, only 4 days before the race, serious rains began. In a matter of 72 hours the upper watershed of the Green River received more than 8 inches of rain. The river level spiked to over 40 inches with the standard flow normally in the 6 to 9 inch range.
With mega-high water levels, the organizers, Chelsea Grace, John Grace and Jason Hale, had to make some decisions, and they decided to cap the race at 20 inches: “If the river drops below 20 inches, we will race on Saturday; if it doesn’t drop below 20, we will push to Sunday and race at high noon. The high water levels have all the athletes nervous and excited– probably mostly nervous. Those who have run the river at levels around 20 inches are stoked because this is the kind of high-end full-on race that they’ve always wanted to do. Those who have never run the Green or Gorilla above a more normal 10 to 12 inches are gripped or considering the possibility of dropping out of the race. It’s a hard decision, but we know the racers are going to make the right choice based on their skills and the water levels.
There is no doubt that Dane Jackson is the number one favorite here at the Green Race. He has put down great times for the last decade and has really stepped it up and recent years. In the last few races, he’s been on pace to break records and has done so, and now he’s in search of the Holy Grail: the sub-four minute Green Race. With a little extra water in the course it seems possible.
Adriene has dominated the women’s category at the Green Race for a long time and, in fact, she continues to climb past more and more top paddlers in the men’s category. The high water level also serves her given her intimate knowledge of the Green River. It wouldn’t be impossible to see her brushing with the top ten. Another perspective: depending on the water levels, she may end up the only woman racing.
Eric, the Frenchmen, three-time Green Race champion, has made it back for his tenth appearance. Always a contender because of his fitness and technical prowess, it will be interesting to see how he does this year coming off of a big injury. He looks strong and his recovery seems complete. He can certainly win and in record– maybe sub-four minute– time given high water levels.
Pat, the wiley veteran, has been racing since he was a kid, and has all water levels and their nuances inside his encyclopedic knowledge of the Green River. If he lays down a classic, smooth Pat Keller line then he could break the 4-minute barrier.
Tad Dennis is in tip-top shape: he’s been paddling hard all year and is well-versed in the high water Green. He’s won in C1 and it now looks like he’s aiming for the kayak crown. All of his years of slalom, like with Deguil, gives him precise boat control and an incredible stroke to move the boat downstream.
Holt McWhirt: this KLCG kid gangster came out of nowhere last year to place third- no one saw that coming. Who knows what he’s going to pull out this year? His performance last year suggests there’s a chance he could win the party.
I guess we should expect stamina from a guy who paddled all four major tributaries of the Jocassee watershed in one day last week, and Michael Ferraro certainly has it. He has started to make a name for himself in the extreme paddling world and that exerience is beginning to pay off in racing as well.
Jeremy, the Germ: this 18 year old has been paddling really hard the last couple years and pushing himself to go fast as well. He’s another of the KLC gang making a serious push in the paddling world It’s cool to watch these guys going fast. He has a good chance to make it in the top 10—or higher.
Another young gun, Isaac is actually a junior at only 17 years old, and he is fast. The question will be: is he ready for the water level that we may see on Saturday. He definitely has the skills but without the experience this may be a push for him. If he makes it out on the course, he’s going to be fast and he may be a threat at the top of the standings.