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May 25, 2013

Clinton kings looking to extend reign

By Dean Russin Sports Editor
The Daily Star

---- — Two Saturdays ago, Andy Triebold and Steve Lajoie lost a canoe race on the Susquehanna River.

The men’s C-2 pro results of the 23rd annual Ed Wessels Canoe Regatta clearly show that Matt Streib and Steve Rankinen did indeed beat five-time defending General Clinton Canoe Regatta champions Triebold and Lajoie by 9 seconds in a May 11 event that totals about half the distance of the 70-mile Memorial Day race.

But there’s a hole in this story.

“They finished second with a hole in their boat,” Clinton Regatta co-chairman John Harmon said earlier this week. “They paddled the whole way cocked sideways so the water didn’t come into their canoe. I think they got the hole really early in the (Wessels) race, so they had to adjust their weight and figure out how to keep paddling.

“That’s a pretty good one right there,” he continued. “You have to be an awfully good paddler to do that in a race that’s about 30 miles.”

Without question, Michigan resident Triebold and Canadian Lajoie are awfully good at what they do.

The two cruised to the 2012 Clinton C-2 pro championship in 7 hours, 29 minutes, 16 seconds to hand first-class Clinton Hall of Famer Serge Corbin his first loss in 29 Cooperstown-to-Bainbridge trips down the Susquehanna.

Granted Corbin may have been a little rusty in his first appearance at the Clinton since winning his record 28th C-2 title with then-partner Jeff Kolka, but even that 2005 victory seemed to indicate a passing of the torch was near.

Corbin and Kolka won a dramatic sprint to the finish in 2005 to edge Triebold and then-partner Matt Rimer by 2 seconds. Corbin took the next six years off before returning to compete in the Clinton at age 55, largely because of his induction into the first Hall of Fame Class the Saturday before the Memorial Day 70-miler.

Triebold won back-to-back C-2 pro titles with Rimer before teaming with Lajoie to take the next four -- all in Corbin’s absence. Triebold and Lajoie then blew away the field for their fifth consecutive C-2 crown, beating runner-up Corbin and first-time Clinton partner Steve Corlew by 11 minutes, 44 seconds.

“I didn’t expect him to come back last year. I was shocked to see him,” Harmon said of Corbin, who is 20 years older than Triebold. “He was gracious in defeat and he put his undefeated streak on the line more as a tribute to us as a regatta. Most people wouldn’t do that.”

Harmon said Corbin will not compete this year and, as of Friday night, Corlew’s name is not among the 88 entrants (44 teams) listed for Monday’s C-2 pro race.

So unless Triebold and Lajoie have to deal with another hole in their canoe, it appears as if another C-2 pro title is a sure thing.

“They’ve been pretty dominant and I haven’t heard of anyone who might challenge them,” Harmon said. “I would say they’re definitely the favorite.”

Streib will team with fellow Michigan resident Josh Sheldon in the C-2 pro race. Rankinen was not listed among the C-2 pro entrants as of Friday night.

Harmon said the Susquehanna is high, which should result in faster times during what should be a wet and unseasonably cool weekend. According to The Weather Channel, Saturday will see a high of 54 degrees and a 60-percent chance of rain. By Monday, however, partly-cloudy skies, a high of 68 degrees and a 10-percent chance of rain is expected.

“It should be a perfect weekend,” Harmon said.

It could be the last four-day Clinton weekend as well.

Harmon and Clinton committee member Rodney Robinson confirmed that a proposal is in place to move the 70-mile Memorial Day races up one day, so the Clinton would run from Friday evening to Sunday in 2014.

“We’ve been talking about that, but it definitely has not been finalized,” Harmon said. “We did a survey and 80 percent of the people were really in favor of it. I would hope it would bolster our attendance. And Monday hasn’t really been a big day money-wise for the park. The races end pretty late on Monday, too. I think it would be nice because we could have a bigger celebration Sunday with fireworks.”

Robinson, who will cater Saturday’s second annual Clinton Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at General Clinton Park in Bainbridge, said the committee is also looking to change the starting point for the 70-milers in 2014.

“We already have plans to not even be in the village of Cooperstown next year,” he said. “We think we’ve got it all figured out.”

Robinson said about 100 dinner guests -- 120 fewer than last year -- are expected for Saturday’s Induction Ceremony, which will honor paddlers Bruce Barton, Al Camp, Jeff Shultis, Priscilla Reinertsen and brothers Andy, Don and Jim LaFever. Contributors Dick Davis, Lloyd Sipple and Dr. Ken Benson also will be recognized.

“The whole class acknowledged they were coming,” said Robinson, who added the dinner was standing-room only in its inaugural year because the Clinton celebrated its 50th anniversary. “They all got two free tickets, so they should be here. We want them to come.”

Harmon said Saturday’s events will be highlighted by the Pam LeFever Memorial Canoe Parade on the River at 1 p.m. Former Clinton Regatta chairman LeFever died this past December at age 66.

“We’re thinking close to 50 boats will come out,” Harmon said. “It should be pretty cool.”

Harmon also said Monday’s 70-mile races will feature 11 four-person canoes that will compete in the Open Endurance class.

Oneonta resident Ted LaMonica, 74, will team with Maryland resident Timothy Ashe in the 70-mile Open Stock Aluminum Endurance class Monday. A first-class Hall of Famer, LaMonica is the all-time Clinton leader in completed 70-milers with 41.

Dean Russin can be reached at drussin@thedailystar.com or 607-432-1000, ext. 215.