The water at the Clear Creek White Water Park in Golden on Friday night wasn't flowing as fast or as rough as Dawson School graduate Joslin Coggan had hoped.
In order to prepare for the International Canoe Federation's Wildwater Canoeing Junior and U-23 World Championships coming up in Marau, Austria in just about three weeks, Coggan and several of her schoolmates that earned the right to represent Team USA were eager to get some tougher runs down one of the Denver Metro area's most popular down-river destinations.
That said, whatever time they can get on the rapids will serve them well for the event — which is as big as it gets for the federation. From July 25-29, young men and women from several countries will be testing their skills on the Mur River in different disciplines, ranging from wildwater canoe (or down river) to kayak slalom and freestyle.
Coggan represented the United States in the same competition two years ago in North Carolina, and in her second go-round is anxious for what awaits.
"When you're at a world championships and you put the stickers on your boat that say what country you are from, it was very cool having my first world championships on home soil," Coggan, who started working on the water when she was in middle school, said of her past experience. "It's a little more intimidating going overseas and being kind of the outsiders, if you will. The USA is not as experienced and has not built the support as much as a lot of European countries. It's a lot harder for us to find coaches, training venues, and we're going over and racing teams that have government funding and devote their lives to being able to do this all day, every day.
"At the same time, the wildwater community is a welcoming community and I'm excited to get to see old friends and make new ones. It's an honor to have made the team in the first place and to have sort of developed the skill levels necessary to hopefully do OK in Austria."
Conquering the water is a family tradition for the Coggan's. Joslin's older brother Will is an active racer and coach while attending Davidson College and her younger brother Peter, a rising high school junior, is joining her on this adventure to Austria.
Other members of the Dawson School canoe and kayak team that will compete in a variety of disciplines are Hunter Keeley (Class of 2017), and rising seniors Ben Deitsch and Trevor Jones. Nate Lord, a longtime coach of the school's program and a teacher at the school, has overseen the 17-person team that also includes other competitors from Colorado and a few East Coast states.
Lord has developed a strong tradition in the sport at Dawson School — and this year the team had about 20 participants for the competitive season, which runs from March through June.
"Dawson School has been getting kids on the US wildwater team since 1997, and I'm sure this is the largest junior team from America going over to Europe since then," Lord said. "That in itself is pretty cool."
On Friday night in Golden, the group certainly stood out among the tubers and other kayakers on the creek — if not only because of their devices. Racing canoes are long and slender — whether or not they are single-man or tandem — and kneeling down inside is the proper way to race. The kayaks, too, are longer than freestyle kayaks although the proper sitting position in the solo device is legs-out-front.
They are made to go fast, and they'll tip in a heartbeat.
Joslin Coggan, with her experience, isn't worried about tipping these days. She is, however, cognizant of just how different every race can be when dealing with a natural phenomenon that is a flowing body of water.
And, she also knows that the European teams are generally advanced in the sport. Most competitors she'll be up against, in fact, started racing before they hit 10 years of age.
"In most other sports, the field is consistent wherever you go, but in kayaking each river is different and you have to learn all the features," Coggan said. "In a single day, the river can change based on flow level. A lot of it is impossible to predict, so you just have to train and hope you've prepared yourself for whatever might come up."
Lord knows the group has a battle on their hands to compete with the European teams, but he is excited about the work the team has put in leading up to the event. As with most other athletic endeavors, weight training is vital to success.
In addition to being diverse in school activities, members of the Dawson team frequent the state's rivers and creeks on clean-up projects, too.
"All of these kids paddle slalom and wildwater, but in some respects we consider ourselves more of a slalom club," Lord said. "But this last year we have been putting more emphasis in the wildwater and it's paid off. The kids are confident in the water and getting really fast. Their physical conditioning has been really, really good."