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Dethroned: Prostate Paddlers defeat seven-time champion Hydra Heads in close finish

Captain Zetah and The Dynamic Paddlers race on Saturday during the Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival. (Jordan Shearer | Bemidji Pioneer) 1 / 6
From left, Cully Smith, Bennett Smith and Andrew Smith take part in the rose ceremony on Saturday during the Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival. (Jordan Shearer | Bemidji Pioneer) 2 / 6
Spectators lined the bank of Lake Bemidji on Saturday during the annual dragon boat festival. (Jordan Shearer | Bemidji Pioneer) 3 / 6
The Giga Paddlers wade back to shore with their boat after they fell out on Saturday during the Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival. (Jordan Shearer | Bemidji Pioneer) 4 / 6
Three-year-old Lincoln Schafer gets an up-close look at a dragon boat on Saturday during the Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival. (Jordan Shearer | Bemidji Pioneer) 5 / 6
Runners take off from the starting line on Saturday during the Kids Run at the Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival. (Jordan Shearer | Bemidji Pioneer) 6 / 6

BEMIDJI—With a good start and a strong finish, the Winnipeg-based Prostate Paddlers edged out the defending Gold Division champion Hydra Heads at the Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival Saturday.

The Prostate Paddlers finished first with a time of 2:15.90, defeating the Hydra Heads of Headwaters Canoe and Kayak, which finished second with 2:16.95. Last year, the Hydra Heads had won its fifth consecutive Gold Division Cup and has won the title seven times at the Bemidji event.

"It's a great elation, it's something we've dreamed of," Prostate Paddlers Team Captain Norm Johanson said. "It was very close. We didn't know if we were ahead and the other teams were right beside us. Sometimes, though, if you're not experienced, you panic and it makes you do worse. But we didn't panic and we could feel our boat was surging at the end, and I think that's what did it for us."

The championship was even more special this year, as the team was honoring one of its late members.

"We had lost one of our paddlers, Dolci Walkin, and we wanted to paddle so hard for her and I'm so glad we did," Johanson said. "We know she's looking down on us."

While 2018 marked the first time the Prostate Paddlers have won, they're no stranger to the Lake Bemidji festival.

"This is our eighth year competing," Johanson said. "We love this town and the atmosphere. The amount of participation you get from this town is amazing and the way they run this is second-to-none."

The other competitors in the Gold Division were the Nordic Whitecaps from the Bemidji High School Nordic Ski Team in third with a time of 2:19.32 and the Dragoneers from Norbord in fourth at 2:21.29.

The Silver Division was won by The Big Gigs from Paul Bunyan Communications with a time of 2:19.76 while the League of Oar Own, a team of dermatology professionals, won the Bronze Division, finishing at 2:33.25.

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