Piscataquis River Race returns after 2-year hiatus

More than 68 paddlers competed in 38 canoes and kayaks for the 48th annual Piscataquis River Race on Saturday.

The race, about a 10-mile paddle, began at King Cummings Park in Guilford and ended at Foxcroft Academy in Dover-Foxcroft.

After a two-year hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic, the race, organized by the Kiwanis Club of Dover-Foxcroft, returned and drew paddlers from all across Maine. Families and friends of paddlers quickly drove from one stop to another along the Piscatquis River, stopping to snap photos and cheer for their loved ones. 

Observer photo/Valerie Royzman
TOP TEAM – From left to right, paddlers Chris Francis, Chip Loring, Rick Gause and Mark Ranco near the finish line of the Piscataquis River Race on Saturday. Their team placed first overall.

The four-paddler team of Chris Francis and Mark Ranco of Bangor, Chip Loring of Old Town and Rick Gause of North Yarmouth placed first overall, finishing the race in 51 minutes and 31 seconds.

“Team effort,” Ranco said after the paddlers pulled their canoe from the river. “Team effort. All four [paddlers] were working at it 100 percent.”

Some members of the group also competed and placed successfully in the 55th running of the Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race earlier this month. For most of the group, paddling is a lifelong hobby and sport, Ranco said.

Observer photo/Valerie Royzman
READY TO LAUNCH – Ray Wirth gets in the water before the start of the Piscataquis River Race on Saturday.

The race included 16 separate classes of canoes and kayaks in three categories: racing, recreational and challenge. 

Ray Wirth paddled the fastest kayak in the racing category, finishing in 55 minutes, 51 seconds. He competed in a long, one-person kayak.

Margaret Hughes and Martin Hamilton finished with the same time, though they were part of the recreational category and used a short, two-person open canoe. 

Observer photo/Valerie Royzman
STARTING LINE – Paddlers jet past the starting line in Guilford during the Piscataquis River Race on Saturday

One team of paddlers fell out of their canoe somewhere along the Piscataquis River. Emergency personnel monitoring the race pulled them out safely and towed their boat back to the finish line.

It was strange to organize the event after two years without it, said Jeff Kelly, a race chairman and Kiwanis member. At the same time, the race is “a well-oiled machine,” and Kiwanis members know how to plan, so it came together efficiently, he said.

Each year, the Bob Darling Memorial Trophy — named after the late Darling, a past Kiwanis president and chairman of the race — is awarded to the fastest canoe and kayak.

Observer photo/Valerie Royzman
RIVER RACE – Two teams of paddlers race to the finish line during the Piscataquis River Race on Saturday. The race started in Guilford and ended in Dover-Foxcroft.

Wirth was honored for the fastest kayak this weekend. Francis, Gause, Loring and Ranco were honored for the fastest canoe.

The race, which brings in money from sponsors and registration, is one of the Kiwanis Club of Dover-Foxcroft’s major fundraisers to benefit area children, said Brian Woodworth, one of the club’s directors. Kiwanis is an international organization that serves children and works to improve the community. 

The club uses funds for various efforts, including a backpack program that benefits students at School Administrative District 4 in Guilford and Regional School Unit 68 in Dover-Foxcroft; the Foxcroft Academy Key Club; swimming programs at the YMCA; and other activities. 

Observer photo/Valerie Royzman
RIVER PADDLE – Paddlers smile as they make their way through a 10-mile stretch of the Piscataquis River on Saturday. During the Piscataquis River Race, area residents and paddlers’ family and friends cheered for them at different points along the road from Guilford to Dover-Foxcroft.

Puritan Medical Products, A.E. Robinson, Pleasant River Lumber, Foxcroft Academy and Eastern Gazette were sponsors, along with dozens of others

The full results of the Piscataquis River Race are as follows.

Class 1, Open Speed Challenge:

1. Chip Loring, Mark Ranco, Rick Gause, Chris Francis 0:51:31.

2. War Canoe — Bill Deighan, James Mabee, Jr., Tammy Kelley, Lauri Sproul, Mike Sproul, Bob Hessler 0:57:01.

Observer photo/Valerie Royzman
TROPHY WINNERS – Paddlers of the fastest canoe and kayak in the Piscataquis River Race were awarded the Bob Darling Memorial Trophy. From left to right are Mark Ranco; Doris Darling, wife of the late Bob Darling; Chris Francis, Ray Wirth; and Chip Loring. Rick Gause — who participated in a canoe with Francis, Loring and Ranco — stands in the back.

Class 2, Racing – One Person Kayak, Short – K-1:

1. Mark Bamford 1:02:39.

2. Larry Merrill 1:08:42.

Class 3, Racing – One-Person Kayak, Long (Wildwater Hull) K-1:

1. Ray Wirth 0:55:51

2. Dan Baumert 0:57:29

3. Jeff Sanos 0:58:20

Class 4, Racing – One-Person Open Canoe – OC-1:

1. Ashton Mabee 0:58:25

2. Barry Dana 0:59:03

3. Sam Jenkins 1:06:25

4. Ella Allan-Rahill 1:07:27

Class 5, Racing – Two-Person Open Canoe, Short – OC-2:

1. Bob Martin, Raven Berry 1:06:49

2. Aaron Emerson, Kip Emerson 1:26:21

Class 6, Racing – Two-Person Open Canoe, Medium – OC-2:

1. Dean Redding, Mark Resinger 0:56:26 

2. Apemesim and Damon Gallippeau 0:57:49

3. Andrew Thiband, Bill Anderson 0:58:26

Class 7, Recreational – One-Man Kayak K-1:

1. Jim Greehey 1:08:39

Class 8, Recreational – One Woman Kayak – K-1:

1. Leslie Gregory 1:04:27

2. Victoria Bartchell 1:26:43

Class 9, Recreational – Two-Person Kayak – K-2:

1. Timothy Johnston, Orion Fleming 1:03:56

2. Peter Devine, Colby Burton 1:13:46

Class 10, Recreational – One-Person Open Canoe – OC-1:

1. Jack Burke 1:12:05

2. Ryder Drinkert 1:18:08

Class 11, Recreational – Two-Person Open Canoe, Short – OC-2:

1. Martin Hamilton, Margaret Hughes 0:55:51

2. Rebecca and Orrin Huetner 1:14:59

3. Bryan Albee, Justin Lawson 1:15:04

4. Andrew Hutchins, Corey Bjornson 0:00:00

Class 12, Recreational – Two-Person Open Canoe, Medium – OC-2:

1. Dwight Blease and Alden Blease 1:01:04

2. Chad Robertson, Greg Caruso 1:03:44

3. Peggy McKee, Ellen Mallory 1:08:14

4. Evan and Kaleb Worthing 1:24:44

Class 13, Recreational – Junior/Senior Open Canoe – OC-2:

1. Evan Smith, Jeff Owen 0:57:50

2. Mackenzie Todd, Mason Hartery 1:07:04

3. Chris and Wyeth LaMotte 1:20:44

Class 14, Recreational – Ancient Mariners Open Canoe – OC-2:

1. Terry Wescott, Eric Gallandt 1:03:13

Class 15, Challenge – Couples Challenge – OC-2:

1. Jake Berry and Charley Martin-Berry 1:08:40

2. James Pullen, Jenene Parrish 1:14:52

Class 16, Challenge – Key Club/High School Challenge – OC-2:

1. Emma Eckert, Camden LaBree 1:12:47

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