Freshman athlete shines in the slalom kayaking community
She has played for Blair's junior varsity soccer team and she is on Blair's crew team. She played softball in middle school, she bikes recreationally and she even knows how to unicycle. She also manages the girls' basketball team, but only because a soccer-related knee injury prevents her from being out on the court. Blair athletes know that freshman Adrianne Kehne is a sports maniac--but her biggest athletic achievement is in a sport with which most of them are completely unfamiliar.
Most Blazers have never heard of whitewater slalom racing, an intense Olympic sport whose athletes aim to navigate a canoe or kayak through a series of 18-25 gates in the fastest time possible. Kehne was first introduced to whitewater slalom at her summer camp, Valley Mill, located in Germantown, Maryland. Valley Mill, accredited by the American Camp Association, was first established in the Washington area in 1956. Kehne's coach, Bruce Uthus says Kehne immediately showed a keen interest in slalom, which motivated her to be successful. Despite the fact that slalom isn't well known, Kehne's athletic drive pushed her to do well.
Kehne's racing team, comprised of her fifteen campmates, frequently competes in races in and around Maryland. In her first competition, the Penn Cup in the fall of 2008, she won first place for the fastest time on Class I and II rapids. Class I rapids are a type of course that consists of small rough areas while Class II rapids have some rougher water but also have rocks and small drops that require more maneuvering and technique.
She won the competition again in 2009. Shortly after, Kehne competed in the USA Canoe and Kayak Nationals and placed eighth. "It was the most intense race I've ever been in," she says. The Nationals are an elite race, Kehne was competing against Olympic-level paddlers. Competing at such a high level requires somewhat of a natural ability.
Uthus says one of the first things he noticed about Kehne was her natural athletic skill, which he suspects is a result of the countless sports she competes in. "Considering she hadn't been exposed to slalom before, she picked it up quickly," he says.
That first win inspired Kehne to race in bigger competitions, eventually leading up to the Junior Olympics. When she raced in 2009, she took first place in the one-person kayak (K1) race. She and her paddling partner, freshman Lily Durkee, also won the two person canoe (C2) race, a victory left them so elated they dubbed their run the "race of their lives." The fact that they were the only female team in the water only added to their excitement.
But Kehne admits she wouldn't have been able to compete as well without the support of her teammates. When Kehne went back to the Junior Olympics in 2010, she won the downriver event, took fourth place in the K1 event and second in the C2. She says she thinks the best part of the trips is the time she gets to spend with her teammates. "The social aspect of slalom is hugely important," she says. "I like that my team will always give me encouragement whenever I'm feeling iffy about a course."
Kehne's slalom success stems from her extensive training regiment. During the whitewater slalom season in the spring and fall, she and her teammates have biweekly two-hour training sessions where they set up gates and courses on the Potomac River. They also do flat-water training, which Kehne compares to the endurance running of track and field. Kehne is also on the water every day during her six weeks at camp over the summer. During the off-season, the team kayaks indoors at pools where Uthus says they mostly focus on technique.
When she's not working hard at practice, Kehne has other ways of keeping fit. "Doing a lot of different sports really helps me stay in shape," she says. Kehne practices weight lifting and core training as well, in addition to the workouts she gets from Blair's crew practice.
With such great emphasis on athletics, Kehne says she sometimes struggles to make time for schoolwork. She balances sports with rigorous magnet work and playing the bassoon in Blair's symphonic band. "I've learned that I really have to budget my time. If I have a race coming up, I know I definitely have to turn in work in advance," she says.
Although Kehne's passion for whitewater slalom started less than two years ago, she is already excited about pursuing it in the future. "I would love to continue to paddle through college, and of course it would be amazing to go to the Olympics one day," she says. Kehne says she is also considering paddling professionally, which she's always considered the ultimate achievement. For now, her sights are set on becoming a member of the junior national team and competing in the upcoming 2012 Junior Worlds competition in Wisconsin. Her more immediate goal, however, is keeping her head above the water while juggling her schoolwork, extracurriculars and athletics.
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