Holcombe, Perry survive 8-ball | VailDaily.com

Holcombe, Perry survive 8-ball

TMG 8Ball PU 6-3-07

VAIL ” After a week of intense competition at the Teva Mountain Games, what better way to unwind than with a nice fun 8-ball race?

“I think it’s so serious doing our other events,” said Devon Barker of McCall, Idaho. “This is just a really fun event where we can come out and have a really good time together. I think that’s why a lot of other people like to do it. It’s a good time to pal around with your buds.”

Except that if you’re trying to race down Gore Creek in this competition, most of your buds, better known as 8-balls, are trying to knock the stuffing out of you. Roller derby on whitewater is fun?

“The 8-ball’s awesome,” said Eleanor Perry, who grew up in Carbondale and just graduated from Fort Lewis in Durango. “It’s possibly one of the best events at the Teva Mountain Games. It combines great athleticism with a bit of surprise.”

Whatever floats your boat, literally and hopefully.

Andrew Holcombe of Asheville, N.C., and Perry picked up wins in the ever-popular Sunday closer to kayaking at the Teva Games. Nick Troutman and Rush Sturges took second and third on the men’s side, while Perry and Tanya Faux went 2-3 for the women.

Traffic jam

While the 8-ball usually has its fair share of carnage, this year’s edition very much resembled a bumper car race at an amusement park. That’s because every kayaker who was eliminated in the day’s earlier knockout rounds could jump in as an 8-ball as the field narrowed.

By the men’s and women’s finals, it seemed possible to walk across Gore Creek with all the boats out there.

Advantage kayakers, according to Barker.

“Some of the 8-balls were in each other’s way, so they were going upside down and stuff,” she said. “I moved over one guy who got knocked upside down and took a stroke off the next guy because they were all discombobulated. It almost made it easier.”

More 8-balls made the somewhat tenuous concept of strategy even more murky Sunday.

“You’ve got a good feel for people who are around you,” Holcombe said. “You try to keep at least a little radius around you and kind of anticipate stuff. You definitely know when someone’s coming at you.”

Holcombe and Perry preferred to use speed, getting out in front of the masses of 8-balls.

“You can use your bow a little bit to control your boat,” Perry said. “You have an advantage as a race because you’re coming fast downstream and the 8-ball is going to come out of an eddy, so it’s going more back and forth. You can control your bow to absorb the blow.”

Then, there was the pack mentality.

“I always try to position myself in the middle so the people on the sides will be taken out first, and then I can shoot through the center,” Barker said. “That strategy worked out well.”

And if you can’t beat them, join them.

“If I ever get eliminated, I’m going to be an 8-ball,” Holcombe joked.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or cfreud@vaildaily.com.

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