Randy Wyrick

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May 9, 2011
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Vail Valley boaters head to nationals

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado - A group of local rafters will compete this weekend for their ninth straight national rafting title.

They're the soggy Boston Celtics, and most of them are raft guides with Timberline Tours.

The Teva U.S. National Champion Men's and Women's Whitewater Raft Teams will be in Oregon this weekend to compete in the U.S. national championships. The men have won eight straight years.

Between the men's and women's teams, they've won 14 national titles.

They leave Wednesday for Portland where the event is part of the Clackamas River festival.

"It's one of those things that sound like a cliche, but it really is special to the travel the world, run rivers, and be on a team with your best friends. That's what fuels it for most of us," said Mike Reid, who's part of the men's team.

Then there's the opportunity to represent their country in international competition. If they win the national title, they'll compete in the IRF World Rafting Championships this October, in Costa Rica on the Upper Pacuare River.

"There's no greater honor than to be competing with the American flag on your chest. It's an honor like no other any of us are likely to experience," Reid said.

Also, if you win the nationals you represent the U.S. in all world championship events for the next year.

"It's an incredible honor to be able to compete at that level and to represent your country," said Lisa Reeder with Timberline Tours, who helped pull the teams together.

Experience matters

The men's team has remained intact since competing in Bosnia for the 2009 world championships. Three members have been together for nine years.

"Experience helps. You can really see it. It takes having one world championship event under your belt to be able to compete at that level," Reid said.

The same men's team competed in the Netherlands for last year's world championships.

To compete in the world championships, you have to win your national title.

Did we mention the local men have done that eight times, and a win this weekend would make nine? And that the men's and women's teams have 14 national titles between them?

They finished fourth in the Netherlands last year. They missed third by one point, so they along with the thrill of victory they also understand the agony of defeat.

"That's a heartbreak, but that's sport. But it is more fun to win," Reid said.

Timberline Tours and Teva sponsor the teams.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

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The VailDaily Updated May 11, 2011 04:47PM Published May 9, 2011 08:54PM Copyright 2011 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.