The Contenders – (Kayak Session 2014 Green Race Coverage with Shane Benedict)
The Contenders – It’s on, right now: high noon November 1st.
Every year I get to ponder the favorites for the Green Race. When I first started covering this event, only the regulars who worked the Green week in and out could contend, but now more and more folks from all over the country and around the world train to such an extent that it has become a more difficult, and more fun proposition. Now I get to look at the training, injuries, and the desire in each of these amazing paddlers. Here are my takes on the 2014 Green Race.
My number one contender is Dane Jackson. Twice, he’s taken second here at the Green Race. He’s unstoppable in the other disciplines, yet a first place at the Green Race has evaded him. Just last week, he won the Russell Fork, his first win in a southeast race series, a significant milestone that many say is the stepping stone to taking the Green. He is in great shape, mostly injury-free, and this is one of the few trophies that doestn’t sit on his mantle. I think he wants it and he has the skills.
Number two: the Quintessential Green Local: three time Green Race Champion, Pat keller.
I always say, if Pat Keller’s healthy, he is in the running to win the race. Once again he experienced an injury this year, but he’s made an incredible recovery, but only in time to make 2 or 3 training runs on the Green. But if anyone could come out of that to win, it would be Pat, because he has more intimate knowledge of the race course than anyone on the planet and there is no one who wants it more than Pat.
Number three: the Frenchy, Eric Deguil.
The incomparable pedigree of slalom and downriver racing that the Europeans are known for makes him a natural favorite. He has a long background in competitive paddling in Europe. He also has 5 years of investment in the Green Race which give him as much or more local knowledge than anyone who travels to the Green Race. He knows the lines; he has the pedigree. It’s time for Eric Deguil to step up to the podium.
Number Four: Isaac Levinson. He has pulled himself out of a serious back injury to train full on all year out in the Pacific Northwest on big water. It will be interesting to see how that translates to the more technical waters of the Green . He has a ton of experience here and is also a former champion. The only thing that will potentially hold him back is his recent switch to a different boat and potentially the hostile waters that Jason Hale might lay down for him.
Number Five: Hunt Jennings: the Dark Horse. Anyone who knows him believes in him. But hardly anyone realizes that he was 18 years old and he was fifth place in last year’s Green Race after only racing once before. He’s been training hard and he’s ready to open some eyes. Many of the top paddlers are putting him in their medal list.
But, waiting in the wings and now full time science teacher. I call him the Sultan of Style: Andrew Holcombe is waiting. He knows the formula to make the lines come together, and if he sticks that formula, his style alone even without the training, could kill everyone.