Lugbill tames Savage River, other Olympic qualifiers again Bethesda paddler gets Barcelona berth

May 17, 1992|By Bill Free | Bill Free,Staff Writer

BLOOMINGTON -- Jon Lugbill gave whitewater slalom racing fans what they wanted to see yesterday in the U.S. Canoe and Kayak Olympic team trials.

Lugbill, of Bethesda, charged down the Savage River to a wide margin of victory over longtime challenger David Hearn of Bethesda in the men's single canoe qualifying competition.

Lugbill, a five-time world champion, goes to Barcelona as the top member of the U.S. team, and Hearn has the second spot.

Lugbill, 30, turned in a top run with a score of 131.33 points on the Savage, where he has not lost a race since 1986. Hearn was second with 137.13.

The third spot on the team will be determined today.

Lugbill had the top score despite a five-second penalty for hitting the fourth of 25 gates. He hit the fourth gate on both of his runs.

"Other than hitting the gates, I thought I had an excellent time on a tight course," said Lugbill. "I never thought that I wouldn't make the team, but I had to take this step to get to Barcelona. I had focused in on this the last several weeks."

Lugbill said he was setting no major goals for the Olympics.

"I just want to go and do the best I can at 10 o'clock in the morning on Aug. 1," he said.

In the morning, Potomac's Marty McCormick and Elliot Weintrob rode the Savage River rapids to Barcelona.

McCormick and Weintrob, who have known each other since they were 10 years old, qualified first in the double canoe competition with a surprisingly smooth score of 146.22 over the 350-meter whitewater course that included 25 gates.

The two former University of Maryland students finished .02 of a point ahead of their close friends, Scott Strausbaugh and Joe Jacobi, who lived in the Baltimore-Washington area before moving to Bryson City, N.C., two years ago.

But Strausbaugh and Jacobi were shedding no tears because they also are going to Barcelona as the second-place qualifiers (146.24) on the U.S. double canoe team.

The third and final men's double canoe berth will be determined today.

Pre-race double canoe favorites Jamie McEwan and Lecky Haller finished fourth yesterday after being penalized five seconds for hitting a gate.

McEwan and Haller must win today's final races to earn the third spot on the team.

The McCormick-Weintrob victory trip is a tale of two youngsters who first voiced their love for paddling to each other at Herbert Hoover Junior High School in Potomac and then took different paths to the 1992 Olympics.

McCormick, 27, seldom veered from his straight path of training and dedication to the sport, but Weintrob, 26, admitted taking three years off from canoeing to play football at Churchill High in Potomac.

"I was into football and that led to some partying, and I drifted away from paddling," said Weintrob. "But when I saw how well Marty was doing in the sport a few years later, I got hooked again and am here to stay now."

Weintrob said he woke up at 3 a.m. yesterday and said to himself: "We will make it to the 1992 Olympics. I've been writing those same words down every day for the past three months."

Strausbaugh, 28, lived in York, Pa., before moving to North Carolina, and Jacobi, 22, lived in Bethesda.

Jacobi has two brothers, Eric and Will, who live in Baltimore, and he said he is an avid Orioles fan.

"I've been impressed by the Orioles this season, and watching them win helped prepare me mentally for this race," he said. "The only reason I moved to North Carolina was to continue paddling full time. The cost of living is cheaper down there, and I've been able to get enough money from sponsors to get by. We also found some good whitewater down there."

There were no surprises in the men's single kayak trials, as pre-race favorite Rich Weiss easily qualified first with 120.88 points, more than three ahead of second-place finisher Scott Shipley of Poulsbo, Wash. (124.11).

Weiss, who is training in Sardis, British Columbia, but calls Boulder, Colo., home, said he already "had my plane ticket bought to Barcelona next week to train over there."

Weiss and Shipley have been training in Canada lately and were far ahead of the other competitors.

Eric Jackson of Barnesville, Md. (130.29), was third behind Shipley yesterday and will have to win today to get the third spot on the men's single kayak team.

In the women's single kayak competition, Cathy Hearn of Garrett Park qualified first for Barcelona with a top score of 153.91.

Hearn was the first American to win a women's kayak world title in 1979. Dana Chladek of Bethesda was second, earning a spot on the Olympic team with a score of 154.38.

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