Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind students conquer 70-mile rowing challenge

Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind students completed the Seventy48 boating challenge in Washington state Sunday, June 12, 2022. Photo: Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, June 12, 2022 (Gephardt Daily) — Eight students from the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind completed a two-day, 70-mile boating challenge in Washington state, crossing the finish line at 7:10 am Sunday after 36 hours of rowing.

The students and eight adult chaperones began the Seventy48 event at 7 pm Friday in Tacoma, Washington, paddling night and day for a total of 36 hours before reaching Port Townsend, Washington. The Seventy48 challenges human-powered boats, including rowing, paddling or pedaling, to complete the 70-mile trek in 48 hours or less.

“We did it! We crossed the finish line,” said Ryan Green, a program director at the school and the USDB Yacht Club’s crew leader. “The students wanted to enter this race and now they have conquered this challenge.”

The USDB Yacht Club is an after-school activity centered on problem-solving, communication, math, fitness and teamwork, according to a USDB news release.

Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind educates students who are deaf, blind or deaf-blind.

“It’s a massive thing,” USDB student Landon Pearce said after completing the Seventy48. “Seventy miles on a boat, on water, especially in the Puget Sound area, isnt a small task. To be able to cross that finish line and say, ‘Yeah, I did that. I succeeded at that.’ … That was just an awesome feeling.”

Fellow student Hannah Hart described the event as “hard and fun.”

“We had to problem-solve a lot to get to where our destinations were,” she said. “We also had to make sure we were going at a good speed. There were some points where we were going as fast as we could go, and it would still take us a long time to get there.”

The students practiced rowing at various lakes in Utah during the spring to get ready for the Seventy48, school officials said. They also worked on overnight paddling, with sleeping, eating and shift changes.

Associate Superintendent Susan Patten said the students and chaperones were “cold, wet and tired” after crossing the finish line, noting they were forced to stop just 3 1/2 miles short of the finish line Saturday night due to high swells.

“But they persisted when the waves calmed and made it across the finish line after 36 hours of rowing,” Patten said. “These kids and their crew rock. Our staff is so amazing. They truly give their all in every way for these kids.”

Green said completing the 70-mile trek was important to the USDB Yacht Club, The club attempted the Seventy48 in 2021 but only was able to paddle for 50 miles due to high swells and dangerous weather on the last leg of the race, he said.

“The students wanted a second chance,” Green said. “This year we were determined to make it to the finish line.”

The club learned a lot from its first attempt a year ago and made a few changes in the second effort, he said.

“This year we took short breaks at campgrounds along the way,” Green said, “and we planned those stops with an eye on the tides to make our paddling as efficient and effective as possible.”

USDB Superintendent Joel Coleman praised the students and their chaperones, saying the race “mustered strength and courage from their minds, bodies and souls.”

“After these students return from a challenging experience like this, navigating across their school, town or state will be a breeze. They conquered the Seventy48. They know they can tackle anything in life,” Coleman said.

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