This past Sunday, November 10th a new King was crowned. The morning started for JROC volunteers in the pre-dawn hours, organizing race lists, finalizing trail markers, gathering snacks and making chili. We were awarded with a magnificent pink sunrise, excited racers and coffee from Crossroads.
Racers started arriving around 7:30am and the excitement started to build. After getting race-course volunteers set, the 55 racers set their bikes for a lamaz style start. After the starting whistle, They ran about 40 yards to their bikes and raced off through the hills of the park and back to the starting area to the single track course; down cardiac hill, over reedy creek, through the culverts and onto buttermilk trail, the north bank loop and back to the top of cardiac hill. That’s where the king and the other racers transitioned to running shoes and began the run.
It was an all-out battle for the crown, Jesse Spangler passed Riley Gorman coming up cardiac hill in Forest Hill Park to take the lead going into the run and Gorman couldn’t catch up on foot. Karl Schmidt was always close behind ready to charge on the water.
It came down to the whitewater section. With the river levels at a steady 4.5 feet, the low-water course was set, and safety boaters were in place. Racers would paddle out of reedy creek, head to first break, approach corner, navigate Hollywood, Tredegar flats, fish ladder, pipeline and then a straight shot to the finish, the steps at 14th Street Takeout.
Spangler was paddling a Dagger Animas, Gorman a Perception Mirage and Schmidt a Jackson Karma Unlimited. Spangler hit the Brandywine cut when Gorman was getting in his boat. Gorman knew the crown was in reach; he just had to hone his strokes and focus on the lines. Gorman passed Spangler at Hollywood and paddled hard to try to keep his new lead.
Schmidt finished the run in third and was ready to paddle. He spotted Spangler and Gorman as he approached corner rapid above Hollywood. He was determined with unicorn like focus to come from behind. Schmidt was able to pass Spangler at third drop of pipeline securing second place. Gorman was just too far out front to pass before the finish line. Riley Gorman hit the steps first and with a time of 1 hour 30 minutes and 57 seconds would be crowned 2019 King of the James!
On the women’s side, there was a different battle on the water for Queen. Emma Troy had made it her goal to compete solo after having to wait on her boyfriend at the time to R-2 in the 2018 race. She started kayaking this fall, borrowing gear from friends but still hadn’t run Hollywood at 4.5 ft.
Troy had a significant lead coming off the bike and run portion, but would her excitement and limited experience for her new sport be enough to get her through to the finish line? She could try to portage Hollywood or just go for it! With water and air temps in the 50’s a swim would be…. cold but she decided to go for it.
Margo Perretz, a seasoned kayaker, who is no stranger to adventure racing paced herself well. The only time Perretz said she saw Troy was when Troy passed her on the uphill on the pavement at the start of the race.
When Troy made a wrong move at Hollywood in her kayak got pushed too far right, caught some waves and flipped – Perretz easily commanded the lead, becoming the next Queen of the James with a finish time of 1 hour 55 minutes and 17 seconds!
Kayaking to third place, Annie Chapelle, from Frederick, Maryland made the trip to Richmond for the race. She and her husband along with a few other Potomac paddlers competed in this year’s race. Chapelle finished with a strong kayak leg of 24 minutes 25 seconds to secure a third place podium spot.
There were 30 teams who were competing for the King’s court. Teams would do the same course, just high-five their teammates at the transition area to “pass the baton” on the neg leg.
With a time of 1:36:38 Team Red Rusty comprised of True Timber’s Scott Turner, Peter Girardi and Mike Mather would narrowly beat out the younger competition for the court. The second place Sh(e)redder team was right on their tale 22 seconds later with an all women squad: Teresa Laird, Emily Wade, and Allison Minehart. 13 seconds later, wii not fit, came in third places with Whitney Morgan, Alex Mayer, Lillibet Woodward.
Once racers finished at 14th Street, a shuttle from RVA Paddlesports brought them back to the starting line at Forest Hill Park’s shelter to celebrate with chili, beers and Karl’s mom’s famous cookies.
This cold November morning had turned into a warm and sunshine filled afternoon celebrating the new King, Queen and Court while also serving as JROC’s single largest fundraiser which allows park users to expand their philanthropic giving toward the park we all love and use.
Until next year! There can only be one!