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Canoe, kayak national championships launch at Harsha Lake, with 'up-and-coming' stars participating

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Harsha Lake at East Fork State Park is hosting the American Canoe Association (ACA) Sprint National Championships this week. Some 300 athletes — including possible future Olympians — are participating.

Athletes from across the country and as far away as Washington and Hawaii are in Clermont County for the event. It includes competitive canoeing and kayaking on a nine-lane buoyed course in a variety of distances, including the 1,000-, 500- and 200-meter races, as well as 3K and 5K marathon races.

"These are athletes that you may see in the future as far as future Olympians," says Jeff Blom, president of the Clermont County Convention and Visitors Bureau. "All the athletes here — especially the high school and college-age — these are some of your up-and-coming stars of the sport and these are ones that would be future Olympians."

There are also two international teams from Canada and New Zealand that are doing exhibitions.

“This is an opportunity to bring the Olympic sports of sprint canoe and kayaking to the Midwest region as we continue to grow our sports and expose more people in the region to ACA,” says Beth Spillman, executive director, in a statement.

Two local Olympians will be on hand for the festivities. Jim Terrell from Milford was on four Olympic teams and is the Honorary Ambassador for the 2022 ACA Sprint National Championships. Greg Steward from Williamsburg competed in the ‘88 and ‘92 Olympics for sprint canoe and is set to compete, along with several other former Olympians, in the masters division at the 2022 National Championships.

This is the first time the ACA championships have been held at East Fork State Park, though Harsha Lake frequently hosts national championships and competitions in rowing.

"We own all the equipment," says Blom. "Our Convention and Visitors Bureau has invested about a half-million dollars into the rowing course; into a start tower and platform; a finish line judges stand; and we have 10 boats that we utilize for competitions. We have eight wakeless launches and two jon boats. We've invested heavily into the watersports."

The canoe and kayak course is similar to the rowing course, but because the oars are shorter, it has been adjusted to include nine lanes rather than seven. Blom says the lake is ideal for rowing sports.

"It is a flood control lake so ... (at) a lot of other venues the current affects the outside lanes so only the inside lanes are ones that are enviable to be in. Here, our lanes from one through nine ... are fair from one end to the other (because) there's very little or no current."

The championships run Aug. 2-5. Blom says the bureau is estimating a total economic impact for Clermont County at around a million dollars.

The event and parking are free. Spectators are encouraged to bring camp chairs and enjoy the racing. The beach remains open for swimming.

Tana Weingartner earned a bachelor's degree in communication from the University of Cincinnati and a master's degree in mass communication from Miami University. Prior to joining Cincinnati Public Radio, she served as news and public affairs producer with WMUB-FM. Ms. Weingartner has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including several Best Reporter awards from the Associated Press and the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and a regional Murrow Award. She enjoys snow skiing, soccer and dogs.