In the women’s long-boat race, Adriene Levknecht continued her decade of dominance at this event, claiming her record ninth win.  Photo by Peter Holcombe.
In the women’s long-boat race, Adriene Levknecht continued her decade of dominance at this event, claiming her record ninth win. Photo by Peter Holcombe.

Record-shattering Performances Highlight 22nd Green Race

Eric Deguil wins his third consecutive title, smashing the course record in the process

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On an unseasonably warm November day in the heart of western North Carolina, as ominous dark clouds filled the sky, paddlers from around the world descended upon the Green River Narrows for the 22nd Annual Green Race. After several training days marked by dramatic fluctuations to water levels, the race-day water level of 10.5 inches provided optimal conditions for fast times and tight racing. With nearly a thousand spectators lining the river gorge to cheer on the 174 competitors, two racers made history by toppling the previous course record.

For the past five years, many winners have flirted with New Zealand racer Mike Dawson's 2012 men's long-boat/course record time of 4 minutes, 10.0 seconds. But this year it finally fell in spectacular fashion as both Frenchman Eric Deguil and local legend Pat Keller redefined what it means to be fast on the Green. After such great success at last year paddling the lighter, stiffer thermoform Liquidlogic Stingers, Deguil and Keller both knew they had the right tool to do something special if they nailed all the lines.

Coming in as the defending champion, Deguil knew what he needed to do to win. After a nearly flawless run, he worried that a minor error might have cost him the defense of his title, though he remained confident his run was enough to break Dawson's record. Meanwhile, Keller, a three-time Green Race winner in his own right, had what he described as "the best run I've ever had on the Green," paddling from start to finish without any significant mistakes. Since the event organizers collected their GoPros immediately after their race runs, Deguil and Keller were forced to wait in suspense until the awards party to see who had won and if either of them had broken the record.

Unlike past awards, this year the organizers decided to let the video tell the story of the competition. After announcing the results from 20th to fifth place, the top-four finishers (Deguil, Keller, Dane Jackson, and Colin Hunt) were called up onto the stage and their GoPro footage was played side-by-side (by side-by-side) for all to behold. Right off the line, Jackson powered his way into the lead. Though Deguil and Keller remained close, with every rapid, Jackson looked to be widening the gap between himself and the others. That all changed at "Go Left and Die" when Jackson ran into the left wall, slammed his head on the rock in the middle, and spun out at the bottom of the rapid. At that point, it was clear that Jackson's error would cost him any chance of finishing in the top-two.

@patkeller1 on his way to 2nd place while @endlessbikegirl makes some noise!! – #GreenRace

A post shared by Chris Reichel (@dirty_biker) on

As Jackson's lead evaporated, Deguil pulled into the lead with Keller just on his tail. The two remained close with Deguil holding a slight edge through the next several rapids. Then after coming off of “Gorilla,” Deguil got a little off line and flipped in the "Speed Trap." After rolling up, him and Keller were neck-and-neck through the next three slides. At the bottom of the third slide, it looked as if Keller had finally gained enough of a lead to carry him to the title, but through sheer grit and determination, Deguil pulled ahead through the final slide to the finish for his third consecutive title and a new course record of 04:05.5, 0.7 seconds faster than Keller's second-place time of 04:06.2. Jackson ended up finishing third with a personal best of 04:15.7 with Hunt fourth at 04:17.2.

Once the video finished playing and the award ceremony wrapped, Deguil was still in utter disbelief that he had not only completed the three-peat, but also that he had set a new course record. "Winning three in a row, the feeling is incredible," said Deguil with a smile on his face. "After my mistake [in Gorilla], I felt that I left too much room for someone to be faster. But again it is me! I'm speechless."

Deguil's victory lap didn't end there, as he also took home the title in the men's short-boat class with a time of 04:30.6. Brad McMillan finished in second at 04:40.1, followed by third-place finisher Alec Voerhees at 04:46.0.

In the women's long-boat race, Adriene Levknecht continued her decade of dominance at this event, claiming her record ninth win. Levknecht’s title as Queen of the Green remained firmly intact with a time of 04:39.8 -- fast enough to finish in the top-30 overall, though a few seconds shy of her women’s record time of 4:35 that she set last year. Rounding out the podium were Katie Dean in second (05:17.9) and Mackenzie Hatcher in third (05:37.7).

From start to finish, the 22nd Annual Green Race provided thrills and performances that one has almost come to expect every year at this storied event. While the higher-than-expected water level may have lead to some of the more spectacular carnage (and even more remarkable rescues by the safety crew), it provided the opportunity for two competitors to carve their names into the record books. With all that said, one of the things that truly makes the atmosphere at this event special is hordes of spectators, who ignored the dark clouds and hiked down to the river anyway, who line the banks and cheer so loud that racers can’t even hear the roar of the river.

All that’s left to wonder now: When will the 4-minute barrier be broken?


-- Complete race results
-- Keller’s insider tips on racing the Green River Narrows, with real-time commentary while racing the Green River Narrows.
-- Flood footage of Green running weeks ago at its highest witnessed levels.