Lefever, Schlimmer sweep weekend races

  • Winners of the women’s professional division in the Pro-Am races, Emma Ellsworth and Rebecca Davis, Sunday in Orange.  STAFF PHOTO/ADAM HARGRAVES

  • Trevor Lefever (right) and Ben Schlimmer after the River Rat Race. Schlimmer and Lefever were first in the men’ s professional division in the Pro-AM races held on Sunday in Orange. STAFF PHOTO/ADAM HARGRAVES

  • Dennis Carey, middle, and paddling partner Dale Persons, picked up their number 10 stickers for the 56th annual River Rat Race at the post position drawing. The pair also finished tenth in the race. Carey took over organization of the Sunday Rat Pro/AM races this year in Orange. —Deborrah Porter

Athol Daily News
Published: 4/15/2019 4:29:47 PM

ORANGE – Spectators watching some extra racing got the same result from Sunday’s Rat Pro/AM Races in the men’s division at Orange River Front Park.

Trevor Lefever and Ben Schlimmer were first in the men’s professional division with a time of 1:33.01, winning both races in less than 24 hours to put a stamp on their dominant weekend.

Emma Ellsworth and Rebecca Davis took first place (1:44.47) in the female professional division, followed by Gloria Welsley and Jo Olney (1:46.41) in second.

Phoebe Reese and Brianna Fitzgerald followed closely in third (1:47.44).

Roger Henry and Alex Davis paddled to first place (1:37.53) in the men’s amateur division. The mixed amateur division saw Tom Payne and Sandra Superchi take first (1:33.54).

In the individual kayak division David Wiltey placed first (1:32.06). Tom Walton followed (1:34.18) before Michael Blair finished in third place (1:42.27).

In professional C-1 competition, Ted Kenyon took first (1:33.10) ahead of William Ellsworth (2:01.25).

The Amateur C-1 division saw Steven Talbot take first place (1:41.44) followed by Bob Allen in second place (1:43.06) and Ken Walls in third (1:45.23).

Sunday Rat Pro/Am Race coordinator Dennis Carey wasn’t sure what he was getting himself into when he agreed to take over the Sunday pro races on River Rat weekend.

The Sunday races had previously been conducted for roughly 20 years by the Athol Lions Club, in conjunction with the Saturday River Rat Race for the last 30 years to make it a two-day event.

“There was a great turnout,” said Carey. Of the 43 boats participating, 35 were pro racers. “Everybody seemed really happy with it, and we will be moving forward with it.”

Carey shuffled the format around a bit this year. “Instead of starting first, the Pros were the last group to go this year, so everyone could finish at the same time,” he said, noting it seemed to work out well.

There were five classes: The Pro Canoe (men and women) course was 14 miles; the Kayak (pro and recreational) paddled a 10-mile course. The Canoe Amateur; C-1 (single person canoe), and youth and adult teams paddled a 2-mile course. All races started from the Orange Riverfront Park, and ended there.

“We had two youth-adult teams, which was nice,” said Carey, ”I hope we get more next year.”

Members of the Birch Hill Canoe Club conducted the judging, using five stop watches for the different classes.

River Rat Race coordinator Dave Flint created the Sunday races specifically to keep the pro racers in town. “We created it to keep the people in the area — to get them to spend another night in our hotels, buy gas from local stations and eat in local restaurants,” he said. And it was successful, for a spell.

But in the last few years or so, the Sunday race was “a losing proposition all around,” said Flint, adding that this year, the Athol Lions Club made the difficult decision to drop the race.

Due to the physical demands, amount of manpower needed to pull off the consecutive races, as well as the dwindling sponsorship, the River Rat Race committee “decided to get out of the Sunday race,” he said.

That’s when Carey stepped up to the plate and agreed to take it over, with help from the Birch Hill Canoe Club, calling it the Rat Pro/Am Race.

Flint praised Carey’s effort in keeping the Sunday event going, especially since the pro racers use this particular race to earn points in the NECKRA (New England Canoe and Kayaking Association) point series. “It’s the best reason to keep the paddlers from Michigan, Canada - pretty much all over the northeast, in town and make a weekend out of it. It helps out the local businesses,” said Carey. The Saturday race does not qualify.

“My hat’s off to Dennis,” said Flint, “he did a really great job. He went out and got a whole new bunch of sponsors.”

“Yeah, it went kinda smooth, it was a beautiful day,” said Carey, “Everybody was happy with it. The Birch Hill Canoe Club helped out a lot. They did a phenomenal job. Without them it wouldn’t have gone as smooth.”

Helpers included veterans racers Charley Brackett, Billy MacDonald, John Bradley, Mark Poulin, and Tom Carey.

A pro racer himself, Carey, who, with his partner Dale Persons, drew post position 10 and finished in 10th place in Saturday’s River Rat Race. He did not participate in the race Sunday. “It was a busy weekend,” he said, but noted he will be racing Saturday, April 20 in the Westfield River Whitewater Race in Huntington, Mass. which is a 15-mile course. His paddling partner will be John Berry from Petersham.

The Westfield race is a qualifying race for the NECKRA point series. “It’s for everybody in the northeast,” said Carey. Points are calculated by time and length of certain races. The Sunday Rat Pro/AM Race qualifies.

Sunday’s sponsors included: Girardi Distributors, Steel Pub, Witty’s Funeral Home, Birch Hill Canoe Club, Brandon and Kossada P.C., Mallet & Son Rubbish, Dugas Music, Jeff Defeo, Adam Gelinas, KK Builders, Adirondack Payroll, Ellsworth Contracting, Uptown Package Store, and Bill Page.


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