Each race is about 110 seconds. The horn blares. Paddle hard down the chute. Turn on a dime to go back upstream through the eddy. Lean hard to slip through the gate without touching the pole. Spin your head around to spot the next gate until you’re through all 20.
Practice two hours nearly every day for five years like Austin Kieffer ’12, and you, too, might qualify to compete for a spot on the U.S. National Kayaking Team.
Training for world-class competition and carrying a full Davidson course load has been challenging for Kieffer. Six days a week throughout the school year, he strapped his 12-foot, 18-pound Slovakian-made kayak to the car and drove 25 minutes to the National Whitewater Center. Twice a week, he worked on speed and endurance at the Lake Campus. That, plus a day of cross training and three times a week in the weight room, worked out to roughly 14 training sessions a week.
He’s been just as committed to his studies. “I’m trying to be a good student,” he said. “I can’t define myself with this pursuit. One day it’ll end, so paddling can’t be everything I am.”