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Utah deaf, blind students complete 70-mile boat race in just 36 hours

Posted at 5:37 PM, Jun 12, 2022

PORT TOWNSEND, Wash. — Students and chaperones with the Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind called this race redemption.

It was last year that this group participated in the Seventy48 boat race from Tacoma, Washington to Port Townsend, Washington. They came up 20 miles short of the finish before they had to pull out due to the weather conditions.

"Last year was a little rough — the weather was definitely a lot worse than this year," said Landon Pearce, an 11th grader at the school.

Pearce is one of two students from last year who returned this year to run it back and try the race again.

Eight students, which included four girls and four boys, spent months preparing and practicing, along with eight chaperones.

"We met up for different practices, Lake Powell and Willard Bay, to prepare to make sure we were ready," said Hannah Hart, a student at the school.

The group pushed off from the dock on Friday in Tacoma in their 48-foot cata-canoe, setting off on a 70-mile journey filled with plenty of obstacles and challenges.

"I think the most difficult things were like, the mentalities that we all had to go through, because there are points where like we just were so mentally worn out that we were just tired of going and rowing and rowing," said Josh Taylor, a student at the school.

Ryan Greene, the Blind Campus Programs Principal/Director for Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind, said close to 200 people participated in the race, including 119 teams.

He said some tough current on Saturday forced the group to set up camp for the night.

"We've been up at this point for, you know, 27, 28 hours, and our students are tired," said Greene.

However, that didn't stop them from reaching the finish line Sunday morning, just after 7 a.m.

In all, it took them 36 hours to complete the 48-hour race.

"The feeling was a very special thing, and it was so great to hear all the people out there to support us," Greene said. "Our families were there, of course, to see us at the finish line."

These students spoke about the importance of this experience.

"I came in this with, like, a confidence level of maybe one and I left like a nine or a 10," said Hart.

Greene said they had one student this year who was completely blind, one who has deaf-blindness, and others who have low vision.

He tells FOX 13 News they will be taking next year off from the race. However, he said they hope to be part of what he calls a cool experience for their students again in the future.