Dragon boat team races to glory

The Dragon Boat team must use their teamwork skills to compete. Photo courtesy of Susan McCoo

The Dragon Boat team must use their teamwork skills to compete.
Photo courtesy of Susan McCoo
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It may come as a surprise to some students when they hear that CU Denver has its very own dragon boat team, but it’s a team that’s quickly gaining recognition in the dragon boating world.

Dragon boating is a type of boat racing that involves 20 paddlers, two to a row. In order for the boat to move, each paddler has to work in sync so that the team can collectively pull the boat along the water.

Just within the past year, CU Denver’s team was one of two groups invited to compete in the annual Dragon Boat Festival in Hong Kong, and just a few weeks ago, they competed in another race at Sloan’s Lake in Denver. With a team of over 25 students, it’s not hard to see how teamwork plays such a key role.

Matthew McCoo, a double major in public health and biology, has been on the CU Denver Dragon Boat team for four years now. “Usually we start in February at the Westminster swim and rec center on Sundays so that we can get back into our form and techniques as well as learn calls. We do this by paddling on the edge of the pool,” McCoo said. “Once the Dragon Boat Race Club gives us the okay for on-water practices, we go to Tuesday and Thursday afternoons from 6-8 p.m. This has almost always been at Sloan’s Lake and a couple times at the Aurora reservoir.”

When asked if maybe they had an advantage at the festival a few weeks ago at Sloan’s, since they routinely practice there and are familiar with the setting, Matt answered honestly. “I wouldn’t say advantage necessarily since there are several factors that play into race weekend. Mindset and prior practice are two of them. I can’t speak for how much other teams practiced or what their mindsets were on that weekend, but I know every team works their butts off leading up to the festival and so did we,” McCoo said. “I would say our mindset going into some of the races was off, and other teams wanted it more than we did and vice versa.”

Maybe McCoo is just being modest though, especially since the CU Denver team has steadily been increasing their popularity.

The CU Denver Dragon Boat team had one more racing event at the GWN in Colorado Springs on Aug. 25 and McCoo says that after that, the team will be at events such as Fall Fest and Spring Fling trying to catch some new recruits.

“I couldn’t be prouder of not only my team but other teams working hard to improve. Our team especially could not have gotten where we are without tips and advice from other teams that, at the time, were leagues ahead of us in skill, but we are now happy to call our equals in competition,” McCoo said. “We have tons of respect and love for everyone out there enjoying the sport as much as we are.”

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