Maybe no year and no event set the stage for Saint Michael's success quite like this summer's dragon boat races on Lake Champlain.
In this, the year of the dragon, the Purple Knights lived up to their namesake's legacy, taming wild waters and hearty competition in a strong showing at the lively Dragonheart event at Burlington's waterfront. Channeling Saint Michael the Archangel, known in Christian lore for protecting Heaven against a mythical dragon, college faculty and staff paddled hard to finish .24 seconds ahead of the University of Vermont and, more importantly, finished 21st out of more than 60 teams by raising $2,105 for charity.
The team was urged on by the college's mascot, Mike the Knight (who wowed crowds with an inspired Zumba session), and all competed while decked out in full regalia, featuring homemade swords, t-shirts with chestplate armor, chainmail hoods, and in defense of their honorary and fully-costumed damsel in distress, Director of Marketing and Communications Buff Lindau. Lindau ditched her usual stylish, shorter up-do for a long, blonde and pigtailed wig.
Thanks to the efforts of Admissions Counselor Katherine Hackett, and her artistic talents, Saint Michael's was awarded best banner for a vivid felt depiction of Mike the Knight conquering his serpentine foe. Hackett also drafted and led a rousing team cheer before the race.
"This might be my new summer fix to complement [the winter's] Penguin Plunge," Hackett said. "As a team, we were stellar. For such a close community, a number of us didn't know each other but we joined forces quickly. We paddled hard, had good communication, looked fabulous in our costumes, and had a blast! It was definitely a funny moment organizing faculty and staff to make swords out of cardboard and duct tape, but even that was a bonding opportunity for us. Our cheering was nice and loud, and I am thrilled we won best banner!"
Dragonboat races are a 2,500-year-old Chinese tradition that emerged as an international sport in Hong Kong in 1976. Nearly 50 million people take part in such races annually, with teams fielding 20 paddlers, one drummer and one steerperson, all of whom combine to power the sleek, lightweight boats at speeds of up to 10-13 feet per second.
The Dragonheart Vermont event defines its mission as sending out "inspirational messages encouraging all cancer survivors to live life to the fullest after a cancer diagnosis," and set a $275,000 fundraising goal for this year's event. Though the goal was not met, the event still raised more than $120,000 for cancer awareness.
Races were cut short as a result of approaching inclement weather, which also made for strong winds and rough waters, and meant the Purple Knights were only able to compete in one early-morning heat. The Saint Michael's Dragon Slayers finished fourth in their six-team heat with a time of 1:00:04.
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Dragonheart Vermont official team photo
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