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Friday, May 5, 2000 -- Albright, WV
Cheat River Massacre-ence
Story and photos by Marty Lamp and Julie Bertsch

[Details] [Coverage]
[Overall Results] [Results by Class]
Pictures: [Set 1] [Set 2] [Set 3] [Set 4] [Set 5]

Cheat River Race
Jesse Whittemore and Steve Kauffman
With temperatures bordering on down right hot, the 5th Annual Cheat River Race rolled through Albright on Friday, May 5th, kicking off a great weekend of whitewater fun, West Virginia-style.

As a cosmic caravan of multi-colored kayak-laden vehicles started the fill up Teter Creek Campground, it was no coincidence that most of the long boats were being untied right in front of the old metal bridge, spanning the Cheat at it's most popular put-in point like a rusty starting line.

Cheat River Race
Ted Newton with no time to waste
Although the temperatures this day would reach the 80's, by the 5:00pm start the sun had grown lazy in the sky and settled slowly behind the lush canyon walls that stand guard over the classic rapids below with names like Big Nasty, High Falls, and Coliseum.

The Albright guage read something close to 2.5 feet, and although this flow admittedly brings out the Cheat's friendlier nature, there were still plenty of places to get on her bad side, and lots of face-smacking waves to make sure full attention was paid.

Cheat River Race
Paddling was the easy part for Colleen Laffey
The pool-drop theme of this 10 mile stretch of water, ending at the confluence with the Big Sandy, warrants a great mixture of paddling prowess and pure paddling strength. Rocks were in abundance, above and just below the water's surface, and the possible clean lines were numerous, but post race conversations were marked by the knowing grins of those who found the fastest ones.

As always, one of the best aspects of this race is the mass start. Like a true race, every boat in the race took off at the same time, but by the time Decision Rapid was approached 1/2 mile later, most had settled into their jockeyed positions.

Cheat River Race
The Rosenbergers enjoy the evening
Taking the lead early and slowly adding to it the whole way, Jesse Whittemore(1:04:27) managed a 30 second gap over Steve Kauffman(1:05:38) by Fist Rapid, above High Falls, but crossed the finish line over 1 minute ahead. Whittemore and Kauffman both paddled Wildwater boats, and both know the Cheat Canyon as well as anyone this side of Antarctica. Anyone paddling locally has seen Whittemore paddling like a torpedo down (and up!) his favorite waterways, always quick with a smile and steady with his stroke, so should it be a surprise that he won? Well, kinda... this was his first-ever downriver win!

Cheat River Race
Just another day for Chuck Singer
The fastest Wavehoppper on the river this day was piloted by Ted Newton(1:07:10). Newton finished an impressive 3rd overall, with over 3 1/2 minutes on 4th place finisher (and race director) Rick Gusic(1:10:46), who paddled a Wildwater. Greg Akins(1:13:14) finished second for the Wavehoppers, with Billy Zollars(1:14:45) finishing third.

After her car broke down on the way to the race, hitchhiking with her Wavehopper and all her gear, Colleen Laffey(1:17:40) caught a ride to the put-in via a local beer truck, and paddled her way to victory in the Women's Wavehopper class. Laffey finished 15th overall, and was last seen running south with her Wavehopper and all her gear strapped to her back.

Cheat River Race
The Daly Brothers say "Hi!"
Coming over from the eastern panhandle, Mike Moore(1:13:14) won the Men's K1 Slalom division while finishing a solid 7th overall. Moore finished with nearly a 3 minute lead on his closest class competitor, Stewart Caldwell(1:15:09).

Jan Steckel(1:19:03) was the 19th person to cross the finish line enroute to her Women's K1 Slalom win. Cheryl Shiber(1:21:45) and Amy Conger(1:22:00) finished second and third for the class, and 26th and 28th overall respectively.

For the first year, there was a team competition with up to four paddlers to a team, but only the three fastest times counted. Three groups would enter, teams from Mountain Streams Outfitters, Friends of the Cheat, and Moravian Kayak. The contest would be controversial and go down to the wire. Team Mountain Streams, consisting of Rick Gusic(4th), Kevin Kurcina(12th), and Harrisburg's finest dentist, Doug Schmitt(20th) would narrowly win with 36 pts(low score wins) The Friends of the Cheat Team, consisting of venerable paddlers Jim Snyder(11th), Randy Robinson(13th), and Dave Bassage(17th), would score 41 points.

Without a doubt, a great triumph for Mountain Streams, who once again displayed their dominance over the other Ohiopyle rafting companies. Team MST was also spirited and motivated by its 4th team member, the recently slimmed down, muscular Dan "Dano" Herring, who battled and fought his way to an impressive 21st place finish. Way to go Dano!

Cheat River Race
The best seat in the house
The men's K1 Plastic division was won by Mike Kinney(1:17:27), who finished 14 th overall. Other class winners include Men's K2 paddlers Joe Hatcher/Bill Carney(1:20:55), Neal Fleenor(1:23:18) in the Men's C1, Steve Frazier(1:26:46) in the Men's OC1, and John Edmonds(1:26:33) for the Men's Inflatable Kayaks.

This race wouldn't exist without the efforts of the Friends of the Cheat, Rick Gusic, and the countless volunteers, safety boaters, and concerned paddlers local to our area. Thanks also go out the the West Virginia Brewing Company for providing some tasty beverages at the take out.