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June 22, 2009
By John Trent
Members of the University of Nevada, Reno’s Concrete Canoe team did themselves proud during the 2009 National Concrete Canoe Competition, held June 11-13 in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Nevada placed fifth in the 22-team competition, which was won by UC-Berkeley. Nevada’s fifth-place finish marks the third year in a row that the team has finished in the top five at nationals.
Nevada placed sixth in Design Paper, seventh in Oral Presentation, 11th in Final Product, first in Overall Races, first in Women’s Slalom/Endurance, third in Men’s Slalom/Endurance, first in Women’s Sprint, sixth in Men’s Sprint and third in Coed Sprint.
“The team could not be more excited with our fifth place finish,” said Jorge Gonzalez, an undergraduate in the University’s Civil Engineering program and Nevada Concrete Canoe co-captain. “There were a lot of obstacles that we had to overcome, plus we are a much younger team than previous years.
“To place in the top five at nationals is a big deal and despite some deductions we still managed to place. Everyone put in a lot of hours – more than 2,000 man hours – so it’s nice to qualify for nationals and come away with awards.”
Gonzalez said a highlight came when the team won the overall category for racing.
“In the past four years that we have attended nationals, we have never been able to capture that title,” he said.
Just getting to the event’s site was an engineering feat of some note. The team drove a 15-passenger van and diesel truck from Nevada, passing through nine states on the 2,400-mile, 36-hour trip. Once at the competition, Nevada’s canoe, the Fusion, met the stern tests of judges, competition and the elements.
“The weather was interesting,” Gonzalez said. “We had a hard time coping with the humidity and the constant rain of the South. Besides the rain, though, it was a lot of fun meeting the other schools.”
Nevada, which won the national championship in 2008, is well-known in concrete canoe circles, Gonzalez said. In particular, teams had used Nevada’s excellent website, Nevada Canoe, to help guide certain aspects of their projects.
“Our University is always making new friends with other students,” he said. “The captain from the University of Memphis came up to us at the captain’s meeting and said, ‘Nevada? You’re our inspiration.’ The comment was very flattering since we never really saw ourselves as inspiration for other universities. We just try to work hard and try to have fun with the competition.”
The nine-month project had consumed much of the team’s lives, but the experience was well worth it, Gonzalez said.
“We spend many all-nighters working on the canoe and countless hours doing analysis,” he said. “The project consumes most of our free time but it is all worth it after seeing all the awards we get. The past few months we made great friendships, found out that we have a team we can depend on, and most importantly, that we had a lot of fun working on one of the most intense projects of our college career.
“With the canoe project we learned many things that we will never learn in class or labs.”