GGC places third in Dragon Boat Race

Students from Georgia Gwinnett College bested most teams from much larger and more experienced schools in the 15th Annual Atlanta Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival Race, held Sept. 11 at the Lake Lanier Olympic Venue.

Students from Georgia Gwinnett College bested most teams from much larger and more experienced schools in the 15th Annual Atlanta Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival Race, held Sept. 11 at the Lake Lanier Olympic Venue.

The first-time appearance of GGC in this annual event resulted in a third-place finish in the 250-meter race out of 20 college and university teams from institutions such as Emory University, Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia. Some of the other schools had multiple teams.

“While not a traditional collegiate sport, this is the first time an official GGC team has placed in competition,” said Jim Fatzinger, associate vice president for student affairs. “I am proud of the students who committed to participation in this exciting race, which is steeped in Chinese traditions dating back 2,000 years.”

This was the first competitive sport program organized by GGC’s new Outdoor Adventures program, offered through its Wellness and Recreation Center, Fatzinger noted. The center provides programs and experiences designed to support social, physical, emotional, occupational and other aspects of wellness development for the GGC student body. This holistic approach prepares students to be ready for the challenges of an ever-changing society.

“This was the first time any of us had ever done something like this,” said Nick Young, a freshman majoring in exercise science. “We learned how to work as a team, and we experienced different cultures at the event.”

Dragon boat races commemorate the attempts of Chinese fishermen to rescue a beloved poet, who drowned himself in a river to protest government corruption. The dragon boat itself is a 39-foot racer made of teakwood or fiberglass and crafted in only a handful of boatyards in Hong Kong. The ends of the boat are adorned by a dragon’s head and tail.

Dragon boat teams include 20 members who paddle by the rhythm of a drum beat maintained by the team drummer, seated at the front of the boat. Another team member steers the boat with the rear rudder.

The 250-meter race was the Atlanta event’s most competitive distance, involving several dozen teams representing various community organizations, corporations and other groups. The GGC team’s race time was about 73 seconds, several seconds better than the average of more than 80 seconds.

While happy with the third-place showing, Young and his team mate, Corbin Satterwhite, wonder what might have been. The GGC team had only 17 members and a short practice schedule.

“We practiced for three weeks and the other schools practiced all summer,” Young said. “We only missed second place by one-eighth of a second.”

Satterwhite, a sophomore majoring in international relations, noted that the team members were told they posted the fastest start of the race, and that they placed only five seconds behind the first-place team.

“I think if we had a full team, we would have won it,” he said.

In the 2011 race, other dragon boat teams may need to beware of the Grizzlies.

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