HydraHeads = H-3-O; local team wins third Dragon Boat title since 2009
BEMIDJI -- For the HydraHeads, it was a day of firsts and thirds.
For the third time since 2009, the team, captained by Mark Walters, won the Gold Division of the Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival. And for the first time since the event began eight years ago, the HydraHeads' trophy-winning time was the fastest in a day that saw 37 separate races, each with at least two teams.
"This is incredible," Walters said.
Unlike in the Silver Division, where the top two teams were separated by less than half a second, the dragon heads at the front of Walters' craft and that of the River City Dragons were anything but nose-and-nose. The HydraHeads won by almost five seconds with a time of 2:08.13. .
"We've never had a final where it wasn't close," Wanda Arenz of the HydraHeads said.
"Our strategy was just to make them chase us," said Walters. "(Some teams) train four days a week. We've had some time to work, and practice on the boat, but never as a full team."
About half the team is from Bemidji, Arenz said, with members from Duluth and Grand Rapids rounding out the crew.
"Maybe half of us have paddled together," she said. "We just hop in the boat and go."
They went all day. Arenz's son, Brett, said the team's first race was at 9 a.m. And as the sun started to fade behind clouds about 6:30 p.m., the crowds dispersed, and the HydraHeads waited. "The rush," as Belissa Ho called it, was over. Some of the rowers yawned, waiting patiently for their trophy. They were the last to receive their prize.
"It's all technique," Wanda Arenz said. ""It's not simply muscles and arms."
As teams came and went, their prizes either competition- or style-based, the HydraHeads remained. On the shoulder of Brett Arenz was his three-month-old son, Solomon. Sleeping.
"We missed the last one," the father said.