Kayakers in the play boat category of the 14th annual Animal Upper Gauley start their downstream race to the finish at Sweets Falls on the Upper Gauley River.

Andrew McEwan says his days as a serious wildwater kayak racer are over, that he wouldn’t mind at all if someone came along and equaled or bettered his record in the Animal Upper Gauley Race.

If such a person is out there, he’d better pack a big lunch.

McEwan won the 14th annual Animal Upper Gauley on Monday, his eighth victory in the event. The three-time national wildwater champion and veteran international competitor won the race six straight years (1997-2002), and now has won two of the last four. He did not compete in 2003 and 2005 events.

His winning time Monday over the 9-mile course was 45 minutes, 33 seconds. He finished nearly 4 minutes ahead of Middy Tilghman, himself a former U.S. wildwater team member.

“My lines were better than usual today,” the 26-year-old Germantown, Md., native said. “But it’s not like I was in such great shape to go as fast as I should. I’d never raced the Gauley before when I hadn’t been training for at least a month before. I haven’t been training at all. But as it turned out, it was OK.”

McEwan says he still plans to compete domestically in select events, “probably just the team trials and the more entertaining of the races.”

As for somebody approaching his record in the Upper Gauley, he added, “I hope someone who’s training seriously will show up and start winning this. I shouldn’t be winning this any more after this year.”

But his performance Monday was still dominating.

“When you race 9 miles like this, you want all the elements to be right — your lines, your pacing and your technique. Today was better than usual. Sometimes I go out way too hard and have trouble in the rapids.”

Tilghman fell behind early but managed to keep McEwan in eye contact through the first third of race. But then a commercial raft “landed on top of me,” and he had to stop to empty water from his boat. “After that, he (McEwan) took off.”

It was Tilghman’s first Upper Gauley race since 1998. He finished with a time of 49:16.

“It was fantastic. It was great to be back,” the 26-year-old Bethesda, Md., resident said. “It went about like I expected. It was a pretty good race for me.”

As for the raft landing on top of him, he said, “There’s nothing you can do. We were all trying to get out of everybody’s way. It’s a great race, a great atmosphere.”

Tilghman says he wants to devote more time to the development of young wildwater paddlers. He’s organizing a training camp next weekend on the North Branch of the Potomac.

Maybe someone will emerge from that group and begin a streak like McEwan did when he was 17.

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In the K-1 slalom class, Bryan Kirk ended Mike Moore’s four-year run on top. Kirk finished with a time of 52:03 to Moore’s 53:27.

Moore said he lost time when a raft pulled in front of him at Pillow Rock rapid, but he wasn’t complaining.

“I tried out a new boat today and it handled differently,” the Harpers Ferry resident said. “But it’s an awesome race. It was great to see so many people turn out.”

The race drew a total field of 72 paddlers. Robin Betz, paddling a K-1 slalom, was the top women’s finisher with a time of 55:57.

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Here are results from the race:

K-1 Wildwater Class

1. Andrew McEwan, 45 minutes, 33 seconds; 2. Middy Tilghman, 49:16; 3. Jason Sullivan, 50:33; 4. Andrew Holcombe, 52:11; 5. Shane Benedict, 53:35; 6. Forrest “Woody” Calloway, 1:43:10.

K-1 Wavehopper Class

1. Dave Garringer, 51:16.

K-1 Slalom Class

1. Bryan Kirk, 52:03; 2. Mike Moore, 53:27; Van Nall, 53:33; 4. Matt Walker, 54:11; 5. Stewart Caldwell, 55:06; 6. Michael Stratton, 55:16; 7. Michael Shields, 55:18; 8. Eric Nies, 55:42; 9. Stan Pritchard, 55:53; 10. Eric Lindberg, 56:01; 11. Max Harbert, 56:51; 12. James McLeod, 57:07; 13. Brandon Reynolds, 1:09:53.

K-1 Women Slalom

1. Robin Betz, 55:57.

K-1 Playboat Class

1. Chad Foreman, 55:19; 2. Jay Moffat, 55:35; 3. Logan Backrath, 55:50; 4. Bryan Hunter, 56:10; 5. Brian Jennings, 56:10; 6. Colin Deschamps, 56:23; 7. Ryan Gaujot, 56:57; 8. Shawn McClung, 58:14.

K-1 Women Playboat

1. Kate Stepan, 1:00:52.

C-1 Slalom Class

1. Jay Ditty, 56:18.

R-1 Class

1. Brad Atkins, 1:20:44.

R-2 Class

1. Chris Metz/Lee Granger, 1:07:01; 2. Kevin Maxie/Matt Smallwood, 1:11:24; 3. Joelle Stanions/Amber Heft, 1:17:22

Raft Class

1. I Can’t Believe ..., 58:44; 2. Corn Bread and the Pinto Beans, 59:01; 3. Special Forces, 1:00:17; 4. Softies, 1:02:05; 5. Kool Aid-Kaos, 1:03:25.

Strider Class

1. Travis Cobb, 1:08:17.

Duckie Class

1. Nori Onishi, 1:01:35.

Riverboard Class

1. Gary Pera, 1:17:53; 2. Elizabeth Arnold, 1:23:10.

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