Launch of the National Canoe Kayak Championships at Lake Harsha

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Harsha Lake at East Fork State Park is hosting the American Canoe Association (ACA) National Sprint Championships this week. Some 300 athletes, including potential future Olympians, participate.

Athletes from across the country and as far away as Washington and Hawaii are in Clermont County for the event. It features canoe and kayak competitions on a marked nine-lane course in a variety of distances, including 1,000, 500 and 200 meter races, as well as 3km and 5km marathon races.

“These are athletes that you may see in the future as future Olympians,” said Jeff Blom, chairman of the Clermont County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “All of the athletes here – especially the high school and college ones – they’re some of your rising stars in the sport and they’re the ones who would be future Olympians.”

There are also two international teams from Canada and New Zealand doing exhibitions.

“This is an opportunity to bring the Olympic sports of sprint canoeing and kayaking to the Midwest region as we continue to grow our sports and expose more people in the region to the ACA,” Beth said. Spillman, executive director, in a statement.

Two local Olympians will be on hand for the festivities. Jim Terrell of Milford was part of four Olympic teams and is the honorary ambassador for the 2022 ACA National Sprint Championships. Greg Steward of Williamsburg competed in the 1988 and 1992 Olympics in canoe sprint and is expected to compete, along with several other former Olympians , in the Masters Division at the 2022 Nationals.

This is the first time the ACA Championships have been held at East Fork State Park, although Harsha Lake frequently hosts national championships and rowing competitions.

“We have all the equipment,” says Blom. “Our Convention and Visitors Bureau has invested approximately half a million dollars in the rowing course; in a tower and start platform; a finish line judges booth; and we have 10 boats that we use for competitions.We have eight no-wake launches and two Jon Boats.We have invested heavily in water sports.

The canoeing course is similar to the rowing course, but because the oars are shorter it has been adjusted to include nine lanes instead of seven. Blom says the lake is ideal for rowing sports.

“It’s a flood control lake so… (in) many other sites the current affects the outer lanes, so only the inner lanes are the enviable ones. Here our lanes one through nine… are passable end to end (because) there is very little or no current.”

The championships take place from August 2 to 5. Blom says the office estimates a total economic impact for Clermont County at around $1 million.

The event and parking are free. Spectators are encouraged to bring camping chairs and enjoy the race. The beach remains open for swimming.

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