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Sports Archives The Altamont Enterprise, July 29, 2010
Hilltop Hoppers a force
By Forest Byrd
AMHERST Wind and rain in their faces, the Hilltop Hoppers’ kayak pulls to a sudden stop after a race during the Empire State Games on Friday. Like clockwork, the Adirondack racers sync their motions so the stroke is like one, and, with every young pounding heart, comes two very tired arms.
“Like a clock. Tick…tick… tick,” Coach Jill Norray yells across the water to her teams in the passing boats.
With Norray at the helm, the young Hilltop Hoppers women’s team consists of four girls from ages 8 to 12 in singles, doubles, and four-person kayaks, and canoes.
The Hoppers, which started as a snowshoe program for Helderbergers, also had a number of skilled male paddlers this year. The Staubach brothers each won medals in the 200-meter kayak race Chad got a bronze and Justin a gold.
Most other teams have much older members, and the paddlers for the other teams have been training together for years.
This was the first year that all four girls on the Adirondack team had been together. Even so, the Adirondack women pulled out of the Games carrying two bronze medals and one silver. The men’s team, with more competitors, took home three bronze medals, one silver, and four golds.
The Hoppers will continue training this summer at Warners Lake in the Helderbergs. Some of the Hoppers wish that other teams were as assiduous.
“This is getting less and less like a sport. Like we used to have a lot more competitors with us, and now we don’t,” Meghan Araldi of Westerlo said before going to collect the bronze medal.
But the Hoppers were still stoked about their sport.
“The boat’s going pretty fast,” Lawrence Stanbach said after the two-man kyack race, “When you get close to the end, it’s so close to shore, it’s a really big effort to stop.”
There is more at stake than just a gold medal.