From left to right: Jae Ellison, director of OLE, Lycoming college; Lycoming students Bryan Darling, Dan Lundy, Michael Panczyszyn, Wyatt Entz, Avery Baker; and Dan Miller, dean of students, Lycoming College
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A team of Lycoming College students took part in the 35th annual Adirondack Canoe Classic last month as they competed against seasoned racers from around the world. Under the supervision of Jae Ellison, director of Outdoor Leadership and Education (OLE), the team paddled in the Voyageur Canoe division in a 28-foot boat specially designed for racing.
Known as the “90-Miler,” the canoe race traces the route taken by early European settlers, through the historic “Highway of the Adirondacks.” The three-day event sees 275 canoes, kayaks and guideboats compete for top honors as more than 500 racers from around the globe paddle, carry and camp along a chain of lakes in the Adirondack Mountains that stretches from Old Forge to Saranac Lake, N.Y.
Lycoming College’s OLE program helps students grow professionally and build leadership skills outside of the classroom through enhanced educational experiences. Intentionally-designed outdoor undertakings deliver learning opportunities in an adventure-filled, fun environment. The 90-Miler afforded the OLE racing team an exceptional opportunity to learn through experience that commitment, teambuilding and tenacity could help them achieve a goal.
Students raced across open lakes and rivers, including portages, requiring them to carry the canoe and supplies over the land between lakes for a total of five and a half miles, clocking in at 17 hours and 39 minutes to complete the competition. Ellison said they took it piece-by-piece with each team member doing his part to advance the team closer to the finish line. The boat itself presented challenges for the team, some of whom had no experience in a paddle boat of any kind until training began.
“In a boat this size, the learning curve is steep, but the team gained the skills needed to work together while exploring and enjoying the Adirondacks. This lesson of perseverance will not soon be forgotten, as many of the team members aspire to race in the event again next year, as well as in local events,” said Ellison. “Experiences like this will help to enrich OLE and encourage an outdoor community on campus. As director of one of the newer programs at Lycoming, I want to establish traditions, and this experience so strongly promotes bonding that I plan to integrate more canoe racing into the OLE roster.”
The Lycoming team did not enter the famed 90-Miler blindly: For several weeks leading up to the race, they showed dogged determination by improving paddling techniques and learning new skills with a coach on the Susquehanna River.
Ellison first considered entering the race after Dale Krapf ’67, a trustee of the College, suggested it. An avid canoe racer himself, he fully backed the team, and proved to be an indispensable asset throughout race preparations.
Krapf’s own enthusiasm and encouragement resulted in the whole team being bitten by the canoe racing bug. Senior Bryan Darling stated, “We grew as a team in those 90 miles. It was tough but I am so glad I did it. I am already looking forward to next year!”
Ellison plans on furthering Lycoming’s involvement in canoe racing as an avenue for students to stay physically active, learn a life-long pursuit and enjoy the beautiful surroundings of the College and beyond.