Red Ladies ready for championships

Photo by Joseph Bahr

The R4 open women’s national team clears slalom gates on a partially frozen Arkansas River Monday in Salida. The team includes, from left, Bre Rocksund, ac Deklevar, Meghan Robertson and Jess Halasz.

by Joseph Bahr

Mail Staff Writer

The U.S. National Women’s Rafting Team will travel to Bosnia at the end of May to compete in the World Rafting Championship.

The team, known locally as the Red Ladies Raft Racers, consists of captain Meghan Robertson, Tana Deklevar, Jennifer Hodgkiss, Bre Rocksund and alternate Jess Halasz.

The team will compete in the R4 open women’s division, which Robertson said is the most competitive.

The team plans to host at least one fundraiser a month to raise money to attend the international competition. “What I want to make very, very clear,” Deklevar said, “is that this community has been our biggest supporters. We’re so grateful. We feel responsible to train and represent them.”

Unlike teams in other nations who might receive funding from the government, she said the U.S. women’s team must generate the money themselves.

They estimated it will cost $20,000 to attend the tournament in Bosnia. In the past the team partnered with Eddyline Brewery to make a special beer, putting “the fun in fundraising,” Robertson said.

Rocksund said they started as professional raft guides and then got into racing. Deklevar and Rocksund have been part of the team for nearly a decade. Deklevar said rafting allows the team to combine their “athletic nature with love of the river.” She said her inspiration for racing is her son, saying, “I want to be a badass mom.”

Rafting is a great way “to be inspiring to women all over,” said Robertson.

The team has high expectations for the 2022 championship. “We really want to get to the top three,” said Deklevar. “We’re stepping up our training this year.”

Rocksund said the team goes paddling once a week and will increase to two to three weekly practices on the water as the tournament nears. In addition, the team does running, strength, weight and high interval training. The team plans to participate in the Pole Pedal Paddle race as preparation.

Due to the pandemic, the team has not competed internationally since 2019. Robertson said they finished fifth at the 2019 championship.

The international competition consists of a sprint, head-to-head, slalom and downriver race. Points are scored based on how well the team does in each event and the team with the highest point total wins the championship.

Deklevar said the downriver is an “endurance sprint.” It is 6 to 10 miles long and worth the largest percentage of a team’s score.

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