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Student Athlete Redefined
by Garrett Valenzuela
Jun 19, 2012 | 769 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
As a volunteer for Dash for Dads walked me across the Sparks Marina to find her associate, we both couldn’t help but notice the beauty of the marina. The sun beating down on me reminded me of the previous day, also spent at the Sparks Marina.

I pointed toward the beach and said “I was down here yesterday for the concrete canoe competition and…”

“Oh how was that!?” she asked with an excitement in her voice, revealing she used to be like me.

I would certainly not call myself an expert on the concrete canoe competition after only one day’s attendance, but I will say that the civil engineering competitors define a new kind of student-athlete.

We were always told: “studies come first,” “no grade, no play,” and all the other ones that said homework was more important than practice. In the case of the former canoe champs it’s true.

The paddling competition lasted one day, about eight hours. The team’s paddling practice during the course of nine months took about 1,375 hours. Total time spent on the entire project: 5,500 hours — not to mention planning the academic presentation and blueprint plans, which count for two-thirds of the team’s overall score.

Upon recollection, I realize more than half the spectators along the beach Saturday were students or parents, who understood what ‘behind the scenes’ meant for canoe team members. They expel every ounce of energy they have on race day, seemingly the only part of the weekend that gains major recognition, yet the majority of their time, preparation and focus is on constructing and presenting their canoe design.

They have a culture on race day, not on the beach, not in the bleachers, but wading in water where it only rises up to the bottom of their trunks. They have the race down to a science that deceives the audience to think paddling was all they practiced. However, one day of media coverage cannot suffice the amount of work that composes a 200 meter race.

Yet the cowbells and whistles from the beach area drive them to perform. It’s a sport on race day, an academic challenge on presentation day and an exciting time commitment during the grueling college semester. What the smiles from winning a race won’t tell you is that juggling engineering classes with a side engineering project (that could possibly be more important than class) can be frustrating, tiresome and detrimental to their grades.

Nevada has established a team that is unsatisfied with reaching the finals. Nevada has cracked the top five for six consecutive years. For those whose attention hasn’t been piqued by this competition: you will regret it.

As for me, I will start media coverage nine months sooner (this year).

Garrett Valenzela is a reporter at the Sparks Tribune. He can be reached at
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