Wade, Farrar take world and state stages in displaying kayak acumen

Steve Benson
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Ali Wade and Hanna Farrar. In the freestyle kayaking community, it’s gotten to the point you can’t mention one of these girls without the other.

Over the weekend, Farrar and Wade placed second and fourth, respectively, in the FIBArk (First in Boating) women’s expert division on the Arkansas River in Salida. The showings came two weeks after the girls, both students at Colorado Rocky Mountain School, returned with medals from the Whitewater Freestyle Kayak World Championships on the Mur River in Graz, Austria.

Not only are their names becoming well known, but someone in Austria is sitting around wondering just exactly where is the Roaring Fork Valley, and what are they putting in the water there?

That’s because Wade and Farrar were not the only girls representing Carbondale in Austria. Celeste Powers, 17, a student at Roaring Fork High School, was also in the competition. That’s three girls from Carbondale competing in the Junior World Championships. There were only 17 girls in the entire field.

“It was really cool with the two of them on the podium because they’ve been working a lot together,” said Heidi Wade, Ali’s mom. Both girls qualified for the event last fall in Ottawa, Canada.

In Austria, Wade and Farrar placed in the top five while Powers was knocked out in the earlier rounds and finished 16th overall. Due to massive floods the previous spring, parts of the river had to be rebuilt for the competition. The result was a huge hole that was overwhelming to even the most seasoned kayakers.

“The first time I saw the hole, I was totally terrified,” Farrar said. “I knew it wasn’t a friendly hole, but over time I got more comfortable and was able to focus on tricks.”

Farrar’s mom, Cathie, said the hole was so big that girls like Powers, who got washed out early on because of the wave’s brute force, didn’t get a fair shot.

“I felt the girls didn’t really get a chance to show their skills,” she said. “Getting washed out doesn’t mean they’re not incredible kayakers.”

The winner of the event was Katirina Migdauova of the Czech Republic. There were four girls representing the United States in Graz, all from Colorado. Brooke Bevan of Salida, who along with Powers didn’t make it to the finals, rounded out the team.

Their success can be traced back to CRMS, where Wade will be a senior and Farrar a junior. Powers attended CRMS for a year before transferring to RFHS. Run by Peter Benedict of Carbondale, CRMS offers one of the top kayaking programs in the country and has graduated a number of current and former professional kayakers.

At the FIBArk competition, several CRMS grads competed and did well. Among those were Matt Farrar, Hanna’s brother, who placed third in the men’s expert division, Eleanor Perry who came in second in the women’s pro division, and Spencer Schacter who finished third in the men’s sport division.

“It feels pretty good, especially this time of year with all the graduates coming back to compete,” Benedict said about about watching his former students. “I feel really fortunate to have worked with so many good athletes.”

Kayo Ogilby of Carbondale assists Benedict with coaching duties at CRMS.

Wade and Farrar plan to continue competing and hope to one day turn pro, but injuries may prevent that dream from coming true. In addition to kayaking, both girls compete on the CRMS freestyle telemark team, and their bodies are beginning to show signs of wear and tear. Farrar is currently nursing a shoulder she dislocated in March.

“I over-rotated a front flip on my skis,” Farrar said. She plans to take it easy this summer and focus on rehab and conditioning. “When I turn 18, hopefully I’ll be at a level where I can compete as a pro and try out for the U.S. team,” she added.

Wade has a herniated disc and other back problems, and while she has no desire to slow down, she’s keeping her options open. “My parents are thinking about college for me,” she said with a laugh. Wade is interested in photography, and if she goes to college, that’s what she plans to pursue.

“With all my injuries, I can’t just be an athlete,” she said.

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