Dragonheart Vermont, Burlington’s breast cancer survivor and supporter dragon boat organization, took home four gold medals from the U.S. Dragon Boat Federation Club Crew National Championships Sept. 14-15 in Mercer County Park, West Windsor, N.J.
Six Dragonheart teams participated in six different divisions with races of 200m, 500m, 1000m, and 2,000m on Lake Mercer. Winning the National title guarantees Dragonheart Vermont will be representing the United States in the International Dragon Boat Federation Club Crew World Championships in Ravenna, Italy next September. Winning teams were the Dragonheart Vermont Sisters in the breast cancer survivor division, the Dragonheart Green Mountain Girls in the women’s senior B division, Dragonheart Quicksilver in the senior C mixed division, and the Dragonheart Senior Warriors in the women’s senior C division.
“It just goes to show you how dedication and teamwork really pay off in this sport. Our teams have worked hard to reach their peak for this event and all the training and effort really paid off,” glowed Head Coach John Dyer. “These national and international competitions are where we get to represent Vermont, and to be able to win on such a large stage is truly gratifying. I’m really proud of all six of our clubs.”
In the breast cancer survivor division, the Dragonheart Sisters team that includes Shelburne resident Kim Dittus and longtime Shelburne Community School teacher Karin Clarke won all of the races on their schedule and clearly dominated the field.
Like the Sisters team, the Dragonheart Green Mountain Girls, senior B division for ages 50 plus, won first place points in every event. For team coach, Nini Anger of Shelburne, the victory was particularly sweet. “Our team had this event in our hearts and minds for a year and we worked very hard to make sure we could pull off this victory, not only for ourselves, but for all our teammates, our families, and friends who have supported us.” Shelburne teammates include paddlers Linda Retchin, Suzanne Geoffroy, and Maureen O’Brien.
Longtime Shelburne resident Sally Wadhams paddles for Dragonheart Vermont Senior Warriors, a group of women age 60 plus. “Around here there’s not much competition in our age group,” Wadhams explained. “But we know when we get to the International Championships there will be plenty of opposition. We work hard year-round to prepare for competitions. It’s quite a commitment. We’re always looking for fit, active paddlers,” she added.
Dragonheart Vermont is celebrating its tenth year paddling in Burlington. Executive Director and Dragonheart Vermont Sisters coach Linda Dyer is thrilled with the progress of the team: “We’ve come a long way in 10 years. From having just a handful of paddlers in a borrowed boat in 2004, to having four teams win at the National Championships is a tribute to our entire organization and all the hundreds of community members who have supported our mission. We are so proud to have donated a million and a half dollars to local cancer-related organizations through our annual Lake Champlain Dragon Boat Festival, and it’s all thanks to our generous Vermont community.”