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University of Wisconsin-Madison five-time national concrete canoe champs

Alex Rexrode, Kelly Greuel, Ivy Harmon, and Dave Blodgett

Paddlers, from bow to stern: Dave Blodgett, Ivy Harmon, Kelly Greuel and Alex Rexrode (large image)

Racing and exhibiting a 20-foot, 176-pound boat, Descendent, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Concrete Canoe Team did more than just buck the laws of physics this weekend: Despite stiff competition, the team earned its fifth consecutive national title at the American Society of Civil Engineers 20th annual National Concrete Canoe Competition, held June 14 through 16.

As a result of its win, the team also will be invited to participate in the 30th annual Dutch Concrete Canoe Challenge in the Netherlands in September.

The U.S. competition, which drew 22 teams and more than 700 students, faculty and alumni to the University of Washington, Seattle, campus, was a real nail-biter, says Steve Cramer, a UW-Madison professor of civil and environmental engineering and the team’s advisor. “You can’t believe just how difficult it is to win this competition five years in a row,” he says.

The UW-Madison team bested runner-up University of Florida by just 2.3 points out of a possible 100 (teams could earn a maximum of 25 points in each aspect of the competition), says team co-chair Dave Blodgett. “Through the whole competition, we were feeling really good, but when it started getting down to all the races and the presentation and everything, we didn’t know what was going to happen,” he says. “We didn’t know anything about our points in three-quarters of the competition going into the awards banquet.”

What the team did know is that UW-Madison earned first place finishes in the men’s and women’s endurance races and the women’s sprint, and third-place finishes in the men’s and co-ed sprints, for a total of 22.9 points.

At the awards ceremony, the team learned that it tied for first place (with the University of Nevada, Reno) for its design paper, earned third place for its formal oral presentation, and received fourth place in the final product category. “It came down to every minor little detail of the competition,” says Blodgett. “It truly was a great showing by all teams involved.”