Continuing a winning tradition that began in 2006, the University of Nevada, Reno concrete canoe team won the regional qualifying event and is heading to the National Concrete Canoe Championship races for the 10th time in a row, to defend the school's national championship title won last year.
The team dominated the seven northern California teams in the five race categories, paddling their 138-pound canoe, Aquatone, to win each of the races at the Mid-Pacific Regional Competition at Lake Natoma in Folsom, Calif. Friday, April 3.
The women's endurance team set the tone for the day with a decisive win, far outdistancing the other boats on the 600-yard course just offshore at the California State University, Sacramento boating center. The men's sprint finals was a close race with Sacramento State taking second in the out and back 200-yard course. The course included a 60-yard slalom section requiring skillful paddling to maneuver the fragile 21-foot-long crafts around a half dozen buoys in the cold waters of the reservoir just downstream from Folsom Lake on the American River.
The races were delayed several times as boats bumped, crashed or capsized on the sprint course, including a crash by the University's team that took a little concrete off the bow of the boat, causing a little anxiety in teammates on shore until the boat was inspected and it was determined that the strong construction kept the damage to a minimum. One competitor's canoe broke in half while racing and one broke after several races while waiting on the start line of the men's sprint race.
Besides paddling faster than the other teams, a testament to long hours of training on the water and designing and building the boat, the team scored high in the other categories in the competition, beating out arch-rival University of California, Berkeley in total points to win the Mid-Pac Regional Competition. Berkeley also has a winning tradition, having been to more national competitions than any other university in the country, going 19 times in the past 25 years and winning many regional competitions before the University of Nevada, Reno arrived on the scene.
There are 15 universities in the Mid-Pacific region, including competitors in the competition: U.C. Davis, Tongji University from China, Cal State University, San Jose, Cal State University, Chico, Cal State University, Sacramento, U.C. Berkeley and Cal State University, Fresno. Teams compete for the highest score through a composite of five canoe races, canoe aesthetics - or final product, a technical paper and an oral presentation.
The Reno team placed second behind Berkeley in the final product category, which includes aesthetics, workmanship and a display at the competition. They were second place in the oral presentation and took first in the design paper category.
"We'll have to polish our oral presentation a bit before nationals," University of Nevada, Reno engineering student and co-manager Wes Munson said. "It's an area where we always have to work extra hard. We are considering a few modifications to the display as well."
The win was especially sweet for College of Engineering Dean Manos Maragakis, who noted that last year Berkeley committed to toppling the Reno engineering student team from the top spot.
"These students with their superior technical knowledge and ability, their focus on team work and dedication to excellence continue to show all of us what can be achieved with talent and hard work," Maragakis said.
"It was a fantastic weekend and they did incredibly well," Kelly Doyle, program coordinator for the University's Center for Civil Engineering Earthquake Research, said. "I am very proud of this year's team and the amount of time and dedication they put into their performance. There were many sleepless nights and long hours inside our space off Valley Road. I wish them the best as they attend the national competition in June."
The team will now travel to Clemson University in South Carolina and compete against 22 other teams in the National Championship Competition June 20-22, 2015.
"I am amazed and pleased with the student's continued pursuit of excellence," David Sanders, civil engineering professor and faculty advisor for the team, said. "They work tremendously hard throughout the year balancing a huge number of hours on the multiple aspects of the concrete canoe with their academic lives and jobs. There are many students who make this victory possible, but special congratulations go to our project managers Wesley Munson and Devin Larson."
The Mid-Pacific Conference is an annual event for civil engineering students to demonstrate leadership and technical knowledge. It is an American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) event comprised of the member ASCE student chapters in universities in northern California and northern Nevada.
The University of Nevada, Reno has been chosen to host the Mid-Pacific Conference in 2016. The team has hosted the conference twice before, as well as hosted the National Championship Competition in 2012.