Local pride ran high last weekend as the whitewater world converged in North Carolina for Saturday's Green Race. Many of the planet's best paddlers competed in the landmark men's longboat event, but it was Asheville's own Pat Keller who claimed victory with a time of 4 minutes 14 seconds.
"It's awesome to see him Keller win again, and I’ll be surprised if this is the last time he wins the Green Race," said Jordan Poffenberger, himself a champion Saturday in the OC-1 division, and runner-up in C-1.
This is Keller's third Green Race victory. He also won in 2006 and again in 2008. But Keller not only won this time around; he absolutely crushed his previous winning times by nearly 20 seconds.
Keller's longboat win was followed by Isaac Levinson's victory in the shortboat class for kayaks less than nine feet. Though he recently moved to Washington State, Levinson grew up in nearby Georgia, and his connection with the Green and the local paddling community runs deep.
"Pat and Isaac are the best of friends," said Woody Callaway, co founder of Liquidlogic. The two had trained together almost daily the week leading up to the Green Race. "They both felt that one of them was going to win."
Levinson was unsure a couple months ago he would race the Green after breaking his back on a bad landing off a Class V+ waterfall in North Carolina. Levinson paid his dues, however, got into full training mode with Keller and ran the lines he needed to earn his victory.
"Isaac had a great time going in longboat then got beatered in Go Left," said Callaway. "What is crazy is that his short boat time was 4 minutes 35 seconds, which is in the top 10 and only two seconds off his long boat time. That is called crushing it. Pat just killed it from top to bottom."
For the first time in six years, the Queen of the Green title left local grounds as Canada's Katrina Van Wijk won with a time 4 minutes 43 seconds, breaking Green River local Adriene Levknecht's five-year winning streak.
"One of my biggest dreams came true this past Saturday!" said Van Wijk on her Facebook Page. "I paddled the Green River Narrows faster than I ever had before under the falling leaves and into a huge cheering crowd. I am so happy to take a beautiful stained glass piece of art home with me to Canada."
The weather cooperated for the race, with a storm a couple days prior raising the water by only an inch to 9-10 inches. Last year's 12 inches had created a lot of river carnage so most athletes were stoked by the reasonable water levels this year. Race day was cooler, with the autumn foliage setting the forest ablaze in bright red and gold over the water.
Green Race 2014 is 361 days away. Time to start training for next year.
Men’s Long boat
Pat Keller at 4:14 in a Dagger Green Boat
Dane Jackson at 4:20 in a Jackson Karma Unlimited
Eric Deguil at 4:21 in a Liquidlogic Stinger
Men’s Short boat
Isaac Levinson at 4:35 in a Liquidlogic Remix 79
Joel Kowalski at 4:41 in a Jackson Karma L.
Dane Jackson at 4:42 in a Jackson Karma M.
Katrina Van Wijk at 4:43 in a Liquidlogic Stinger
Adriene Levknecht at 4:52 in a Liquidlogic Stinger
Benn Fraker at 4:47 in a Liquidlogic Stinger
Jordan Poffenberger at 4:57 in a Liquidlogic Stinger
Bradley McMillan at 4:59 in a Dagger Green Boat
Jordan Poffenberger at 8:16 in a Blackfly Ion
Bradley McMillan at 8:34 in a Blackfly Option
Geoff Calhoun at 5:40 in a Dagger Mamba 8.6
Bill Clipper at 5:43 in a Liquidlogic Stinger
Jake Trotter at 6:15 in a Dagger Nomad 8.5