True West Meets True East: CU Denver Dragon Boat Team
Team Invited to Hong Kong for June Competition
Drums are pounding a rhythmic beat, gallons of water are splashing over the sides of the colorful 40-foot long canoe, and the 22 members of the CU Denver Dragon Boat team are breaking past the finish line. It’s happened time and time again, and due to hard work and perseverance, this year on June 17th, you won’t find the team racing ahead at Denver’s Sloan Lake – they’re headed to Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor for the prestigious International Dragon Boat Federation Festival.
As one of only two American teams invited to compete, the team members, including Co-Captains Katherine Khuu and Anthony Phaun, couldn’t be more thrilled.
“It’s such an honor to represent Colorado,” said Team Co-Manager Jeff Dang. “The only other U.S. team is from New York, and we will be competing with 5,000 athletes on 160 teams from around the world.”
Awarded with the Denver Mayor’s Award for Excellence in Arts and Culture, the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival is a favorite with students, local businesses, and residents alike. Since its inception 18 years ago, this annual summer festival, which celebrates Colorado’s rich Asian-Pacific heritage, has expanded to both days of the weekend and welcomed more than 125,000 visitors and participants. The Dragon Boat Races have grown along with the festival, starting with 16 teams and now having more than 50.
CU Denver students and alumni took the plunge right away; they have been training in earnest since the very beginning. CU Denver students formed the first university team in the state.
“Twenty-five students meet every week for a rigorous training schedule lasting from January to August of every year,” said Team Co-Manager Nevan McCabe. CU Denver alumnus McCabe, who majored in biology, is now a Clinical Laboratory Manager for a Denver company. Co-Manager Dang majored in business management and marketing and is currently a Project Manager for Oracle Software.
Along with other CU Denver students and alumni, they view their experiences with the CU Denver Dragon Boat team as being empowering and highly beneficial to the development of students’ leadership skills.
“The entire structure of this team, from practice times and routines, to team bonding events, to festival coordination and allocation of finances, is all handled by a group of student leaders,” said McCabe.
The team has been diligently exploring ways to secure the necessary funds, and have been successful in securing sponsorship for hotel and registration fees. But there is more to be done. The remaining costs for airfare and expenses to send 24 team members to Hong Kong equals $26,000. For this goal, they are reaching out to the community in coordination with the CU Denver Office of Advancement through a secure online crowd-funding website.
Grecia Portillo, CU Denver Student Body President, enthusiastically champions the value of the team and its role in developing student potential; she has been a team member for three years. “This invitation to the event in Hong Kong provides an amazing opportunity for students to compete internationally as well as to raise visibility for Colorado and for CU Denver.”
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