The end of another summer of sprint kayak training and competition has descended upon Sudbury Canoe Club head coach Dan Welch and his stable of eighteen paddlers.
Six would make their way through to the provincial championships late last month in Welland, a group that included 13-year-old Evan Volpini, a five year member of the SCC programs.
Volpini's weekend was highlighted by a first place finish in both the K1 1000m "C" final (5:02.70), and an identical performance in the K2 500m "C" final (2:21.80), partnered with Sudbury teammate Ben Pilon.
Originally invited, through a friend, to give the sport a try, Volpini recalled the earliest of lessons as he gradually worked his way through to a "race ready" status.
"You really have to make sure that you're stable in your boat, really make sure you know the technique of paddling," he said.
"You have to make sure that your hands are up and that you use all of your upper body muscles."
Thankfully, for those not blessed with great natural balance, there are tricks of the trade that can ease one into an eventual feeling of comfort on the water.
"You do something called bracing," Volpini explained. "You put your paddle in the water when you feel that you're about to fall or feel tippy."
Teamed with Pilon for the K2 events for a little while now, the local product noted their keys to success as a duo.
"We need to make sure that we have the same style and make sure that we are really synchronized when we're doing our strokes," said Volpini. "It makes a big difference."
As for the race distances, he noted that he really has no issue with the course being extended to a kilometre or so, as is the case with his K1 competitions.
"I'm more of a long distance runner, so I find that it's a lot easier to paddle the 1000m," said Volpini. "You can go as hard as you can, the first fifteen seconds of the race. In the middle of the race, you make sure you save some energy for the end of the race, then you go all out, as hard as you can."
While 16-year-old Alex Gillette did not partake in the 2017 provincials, he's not all that far off, looking at perhaps cracking the barrier come next summer. An original graduate of the "Canoe Kids Summer Camp", he recalled the fit he would find with this particular type of vessel.
"When I started doing sprint kayaking in camp, Dan (Welch) suggested I join the team," said Gillette. "We do polo canoe, sprint kayaking and paddleboard. It's easier to steer than polo boats, and it's a lot faster, definitely. You have a rudder and you can turn easily.
"The polo boats are pretty round (on the bottom), they're difficult to steer, they kind of go wherever they want."
Also a five year veteran with Team SCC, Gillette knows that his technical abilities have come a long, long way.
"I'm much better now," he said. "My hands are so much higher than they used to be. I was very lazy when I first started, comparatively. It really helps the technique, having your hands up."
For Welch, a mainstay with the Canoe Club over the past decade or more, the past few months represent yet another sign of progress for his team, with his sights already geared to another addition to the mix he would dearly love to incorporate.
"When we started the sprint program, we only had four kids," said Welch. "It's built up, this is the largest group. I'm seriously thinking of trying to get our board to run a sprint camp for the summer."
Following is a complete breakdown of results for all Sudbury Canoe Club paddlers who qualified for provincials:
U15 - Boys - K1 (1000m) - Ben Pilon - "B" Final - 5:07.1 (6th)
U13 - Girls - K1 (1000m) - Abbey Krawczuk - "C" Final - 6:48.2 (9th)
U15 - Girls - K1 (1000m) - Paris Macey - "A" Final - 5:15.9 (9th)
U14 - Boys - K1 (1000m) - Evan Volpini - "C" Final - 5:02.7 (1st)
U14 - Boys - K1 (1000m) - Maxime Deschenes-Chitov - "C" Final - 5:09.1
U14 - Boys - K1 (1000m) - Quinn Roos - "C" Final - 5:38.7 (9th)
U15 - Girls - K2 (500m) - Paris Macey/Abbey Krawczuk - "A" Final - 2:32.3 (10th)
U15 - Boys - K2 (500m) - Evan Volpini/Ben Pilon - "C" Final - 2:21.8 (1st)
U15 - Boys - K2 (500m) - Quinn Roos/Maxime Deschenes-Chitov - "C" Final - 2:29.3 (3rd)
U15 - Boys - K4 (1000m) - Deschenes-Chitov/Pilon/Roos/Volpini - "A" Final - 2:06.2 (8th)