The U.S. Open has always been a rather monumental race for me. It was my first major National level race last year, and my first race of 2009 also.
The Nantahala River is located in western North Carolina, in a beautiful and pristine gorge, but it is definitely cold here. I spent the past two weeks here training, getting used to the topography and flow of the water, practicing gates, and mentally preparing.
So, the race weekend finally arrived (March 28-29) and I felt very comfortable on the river at that point. The course that had been set was challenging, with difficult off-set gates, and the weather wasn't cooperating very well either, with temperatures in the mid 40's, rain, and chilling wind, but I came into the race feeling very confident.
My first canoe run came, and I did really well, having a solid time, with only one gate touch. I took a kayak run next, and it didn't go nearly as well as I had hoped.
The afternoon runs rolled around, and I didn't do as well in my C1 (canoe) run as I had in the morning, but my kayak run went far better.
I finished day one in a solid second place in canoe, 2.5 seconds behind the leader, Colleen Hickey, and in first for Women's Junior Kayak.
Day two rolled around, and with the new course set, I laid down an even faster and cleaner first run in my canoe than I had imagined possible. I decided against taking my first kayak run to save energy for the afternoon's runs, where I wanted to go all out.
In the afternoon, I pulled of another very fast and clean C1 run, which had me finishing in first place for Women's Canoes, beating the winner of last years Olympic Team Trials.
I took my second kayak run, and laid down a slightly slower, but totally clean run, which had me finishing fourth for all women, and first for Junior Women's Kayak.
All said, this years U.S. Open was my best race to date, pulling out two first places, and accomplishing some of my greatest goals.
I'll be down here in North Carolina for the next week, finishing up my training in preparation for Junior National Team Trials, which will determine weather or not I travel to France this summer for Junior World Championships. I'll write soon!