Canoeists Bryse Paffile and Brittany Bakken are jet setting to Lake Placid, N.Y. early Tuesday morning to finish training for the Junior World Championships, July 29-31.
The two members of the Gig Harbor Canoe and Kayak Racing Team will join 17 of their U.S. Junior Sprint World Championships teammates for two weeks of training before they head to Brandenburg, Germany on July 26.
The Junior National Team was announced, appropriately enough, on July 4 after three days of trials in Lake Placid. Out of the 17 paddlers, seven qualified from the Gig Harbor program.
Head coach Alan Anderson, who will be in New York during the first week of trainings, said his athletes will be competing against some of the top racers in the world.
"When you're going up agains the Germans and the Hungarians, this sport over there is like baseball is here," Anderson said. "The U.S. is ranked in the top 30s, and we're going up against the very best paddlers on the planet."
Paffile, the No. 1 canoeist in the country, will compete in three events: C1 500m, C2 500m and C4 1000m.
Although the 17-year-old has only been paddling for four years, this is Paffile's second international race. He competed in Mexico City for the Sprint Pan American Championships last October.
"It's a big responsibility (to represent the country)," Paffile said. "It's something I've always dreamed of doing."
Anderson said he's proud of all of his athletes, and he expects plenty of success at the Junior Worlds.
"A or B finals, the U.S. is typically happy with," Anderson said. "Bryse's C1 races are going to be interesting. I have some high hopes for Bryse to make one of the two finals."
"I would like to end up in the A finals. That's my goal," said Paffile.
Meanwhile, Bakken, who's gearing up for her first race in international waters said she's still in awe.
"I really don't know what to expect," said Bakken, the least experienced paddler on the team with just two years under her belt. "I've never been in a competition this big."
To build her competitive edge, the 17-year-old said she's been working on paddling techniques to help boost her speed.
"The better the technique, the faster you go," Bakken said. "You can have a slow stroke and still beat everyone even if they're paddling faster than you."
"I'm really excited," she said. "We just hope for the best."
Following the competition in Germany, the paddlers will fly to Atlanta, where they will race in the National Championships.
- Katie McKeever
- Natalie Griffin
- Bryse Paffile
- Dustin Sousley
- Andrew Fields
- MacKenzie Sousley
- Brittany Bakken