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Friday, May 2, 2008 -- Albright, WV
Cheat Canyon Race (iPO Event Id#: 11010)

[Details] [Coverage] [Photos] Results: [Overall] [By Class] [Teams]

Coverage: [1999] [2000] [2001] [2002] [2003] [2004] [2005]

Article by Race Director, Rick Gusic, with photos by Julie Black

The 2008 Cheat Canyon Downriver Race is in the books! A few random thoughts from this year's effort......

Photo by Julie Black
Pre-race warm-ups at the put-in
For the third year in a row, we had great racing conditions. Temperatures were around 70 to 75 degrees, a little warm, but no rain at all.

As a bonus, the rain all fell in the prior day, making the water levels almost perfect. I say 'almost' because some might say it was maybe a little to high, as the Cheat river was running around 3 1/2 feet on the Route 26 bridge gauge (more on this two paragraphs down).

Attendance was outstanding.

We had a total of 151 pay to enter the race. Due to the water levels be a little on the high side, not all those people entered the race though. We had a few people drop out, some deciding to not race at the last minute, and some deciding to instead help with safety.

Around 131 to 135 people finished the race, in varying degrees (as some were rafted out, etc...)

Back to the issue regarding the water level and people not finishing the race, the water levels were a bit tough this year. Some people might say they were perfect, but 3 1/2 is not an easy level, especially when you are going full-out during a race.

While I am still collecting stories form the race (it's tough getting feedback from 150 people), it would appear we did have some action this year.

Photo by Julie Black
Getting ready for the launch
Big Nasty would get a few people, but there was some carnage down at Colosseum. Initial reports are that we had six racers crash and burn. We also had a raft full of racers wipe out. We also lost one of our safety rafts for a good bit of time.

In all, two guys would lose their boats at the rapid, one of which was pinned at Pete Morgan for about four days. Both boats were later found, courtesy of safety boater Rich Yester (during the race) and Travis Cobb of Cheat River Outfitters, finding the Eskimo Diablo on Tuesday.

We had incredible help with the race yet again and a big props need to go all those volunteers. Starting a 151 person mass start race, at 5:30 at night, then getting all those people and boats out of the canyon and back to a post race party before dark, isn't easy.

Coordinating racers, buses, beer, shuttles, racing bibs, trucks, shuttles, food vendors, volunteers and everything else can make one nuts. Fortunately, the Cheat Race has an incredible group of volunteers, pulling the race off again without a hitch.

Overall, time were very fast this year due to the higher water.

Photo by Julie Black
MASS start of the Cheat Race
We had 22 female racers, down a little from the 27 from last year, but the water was higher this year. Its' still still a good number of women racing at a tough level, good job by all of them.

We also had a new womne's champ this year too...Susan Hollingsworth. Susan finished at 1:07:37, beating Chara Whittemore (1:09:16) by 1 minute and 39 seconds. Susan would finish 22nd overall.

Three time overall winner, Geoff Calhoun, became a 4-time tying Andrew McEwen for the most titles in the 13 year Cheat Race history. Congratulations Geoff!

Geoff would beat a group of 'sort of' close racers who kept close initially, but ultimately fell off during the 10 mile race. Geoff finished in 0:56:49.

Coming in 2nd place was the 15 year old boating sensation, Peter Lutter, at 0:58:15. That's right . . . that's not a misprint. Peter is only 15, and he kicked ass in his second Cheat race, improving on his 8th place finish last year.

Coming in right behind Peter (rounding out the top four) in 3rd was rocketing Rodney Rice (sponsored by iPlayOutside) at 1:01:08 and then Jeremy Casolo at 1:01:16.

Photo by Julie Black
Mike McMillian, thumbs up, Team iPlayOutside
Special shout out to Tom McEwan who brought up some 19 boaters to the race from his Liquid Adventures Kayak School. Not only did Tom bring them up to race, but Tom kicked some serious butt himself, finishing 20th overall while racing in his Prijon Tornado at 1:06:40!

In the team race news, Team Mountain Streams didn't win their club/company division (again) as two of their top racers got sidetracked helping their 4th teammate, Kevin Damm at Colosseum rapid. Kevin was the unfortunate winner of the 'Titanic Award', for the best crash and burn (he'll get his Leonard Dicaprio poster in the mail in a few weeks).

By the time Rocky Rockwell and Nate Ober got to Keven's boat and rescued him, they had dropped all the way down to 127th and 128th place. Props to Rocky and Nate for helping out though, in the spirit of true sportsman ship. 1st place in the club/company category would ultimately fall to 'Purple Pride', who nailed down 9th, 13th, 16th, and 22nd. - Andy Kirby, Ben Scoville, Max Cadarette and Susan Hollingsworth.

Oh yeah...The Three Rivers Paddling Club beat their interstate nemesis, the Cleveland Keelhaulers again. That pushes the overall scorecard in the cross state rivalry to six wins for the Pittsburgh paddlers...and only two wins for the Cleveland'ers.

The fastest overall team would be in our pro division (WW boats). The Little Falls Wildwater Club simply blew everyone away. Geoff Calhoun, Peter Lutter, Adam VanGrack and Jason Beakes all finished in the top five.

Thanks goes out to...

Photo by Julie Black
Future generation neXt, Brady and Kirk
Judy, Natalie, Larry, Gary and Michelle Gusic with the time keeping. Liz from Laurel Highland River Tours at the registration. Neal Dana, Rich Yester, Kevin Kurcina and Art with the safety (sorry Art, I forgot your friend's name??)

Jeff Prycl with beer duties. Keith Heasley, John Jeffries with Mountain Streams driving some trucks and letting us use their property for the party. Glenn Miller for shuttles. Paul and Wendy over at Cheat River Outfitters for letting us use their bus. Sally and Keith from the Friends of the Cheat.

The list goes on and on. Please thank these people if you see them. If I missed someone, please let me know and I'll add you in. It's great to see everyone come together once a year for a great time.

Special Thanks to Jeff Prycl of Rocky Mountain Kayak for donating over $1,000 worth of prizes. Jeff also raffled off a paddle to one of our racers.

If you haven't seen a Cheat Canyon Race mass start yet... you are really missing something. Words cannot do justice the intensity, chaos and everything else when 140 some boats all start off at the same time. Please check out the video link on our website.

Please check out the link to the class winners. Long boat, race boat, short boat and the canoe, rafts and C1'ers. It's also up on the race site. Sometime this week, we'll also update the medal totals in our Cheat Canyon Race Hall of Fame on the website. Check to see how you have done and compare to other past legendary racers!

Last thought...please email your thoughts on the race. Any input is good on how to make the race better for everyone involved. Good thoughts, bad thoughts, any thoughts are good to help us.

Please do let me know and send them to We're open for any ideas in making the race better.

Sincerely, Rick Gusic

For the Record --- Team iPlayOutside:

Though I can't believe they weren't mentioned at all in the article above, it should be known that Team iPlayOutside came in as the 2nd overall Club Team!

Team iPlayOutside - photo by Julz Black
Team iPlayOutside, 2nd Overall Club Team
Hartley, Moore, Black, and McMillian
Our team was told at the awards ceremony that they tied for first, but after the points were added, a 2nd overall finish was posted.

Not one guy on the team is under age 35, so this veteran team of paddlers, Jason Black, Mike McMillian, Mike Moore, and Charlie Hartley, kicked some butt in 2008.

Plus, this being the first time that 50 year old Mike McMillian raced, finishing 11th overall out of a field of 138 races is just plain amazing!!! Awesome Mike, congrats.

For the Cheat Race iPlayOutside also sponsors individual racers, Rodney Rice (3rd overall this year), and when she's racing, Heather Rau (3 overall first place woman titles, and a 5 time division title winner). Expect Rau back in 2009.

The shirts were a big hit too. Even reverse mo-hawk, Braveheart face-painter champ, Geoff Calhoun, asked for one. All-in-all, it was an awesome race and festival.

Congrats team, job well done. Can't wait to see what you do in 2009!

~ Julz