On Saturday, June 7 the 8th Annual Independence Dragon Boat Regatta was held at the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia. It was sponsored by Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino and Racetrack. It is directed and managed by the Philadelphia Dragon Boat Association and the event “introduces coaches, race teams of 20 novice or experienced paddlers in a three-heat Dragon Boat Regatta (500 Meter Distance). Youth from J.S Jenks, C.W Henry, Lingelbach, Bethune, and Wissahickon Charter representing grades 6-8 made up the Healthy Dragon Warriors and Healthy Dragon Blazers. These amazing students led by the following coaches participated in an event where they competed against adults and high school students: Diane Balanovich (Bethune), Laura Whitney (Jenks), Kristine Heberly (Henry), Jason Rhett (Wissahickon Charter), Jan Cairone (Asst. Head Coach, retired from Henry), and Emilia Rastrick (Lingelbach).
There were 53 students in the program this year and 46 students competed in the Regatta on Saturday. Each boat has 20 paddlers, 1 drummer, and a steers person. Training begins in late March (twice a week).
The day began as early as 6 a.m. with a closing ceremony at approximately 5:30 p.m. It was exciting to watch and cheer from the sidelines as teams from all over competed. At a time when budget cuts continue to threaten to eliminate programs and entire schools, it is always a positive to be able to report about an event where Philadelphia public school children are able to participate in something that is a plus for their health, well-being, and team development.
The event was filled with vendors and games and lots of food. Organizations brought grills and tents were set up for spectators and supporters to watch and cheer loudly.
Ms. Rastrick or as the students like to call her, Ms. R believes that, “students gain strength and cardiovascular conditioning. Furthermore, they learn to control their body in a way that most have never done before by learning a very specific stroke.”
Students come from five schools and are placed on two boats. “They learn to work together to be successful in order to win. Timing, Technique, and Teamwork = Triumph in dragon boat. The program helps students break down their neighborhood barriers and work together while also competing.”
Team USA is the national team for Dragon Boat. A great deal of the Team USA is run out of Philadelphia. It consists of many categories of boats and coaches in Philadelphia are for the Premier women, mixed, and open teams. Our students can try out for the U16 Team USA boat to qualify to compete at the International Dragon Boat Federation World Championships in Welland, Canada in August 2015. Additional information can be found here.
The Healthy Dragon Warriors won the Gold Medal Youth Division and the Youth Cup competing in the C Division against adults. The Healthy Dragon Blazers won the Silver medal Youth Division competing in the D Division against adults also. The race times for each were amazing! Both boats were within seconds of their adult competitors. During the first race both teams beat Central High School and continued to do well during the remaining races.
The youth showed the adults what they were made of and the event was a win for all participants.