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180th Team victorious in Dragon Boat Races

The 180th Fighter Wing Team crosses the finish line of the first race in second place at the 2008 Dragon Boat Festival on the Maumee River in downtown Toledo, Ohio on July 26. The Great Maumee River Dragon Boat Festival raises funds to support the mission of Partners In Education of Toledo. USAF photo by SrA Sheena Meyer (Released).

The 180th Fighter Wing Team crosses the finish line of the first race in second place at the 2008 Dragon Boat Festival on the Maumee River in downtown Toledo, Ohio on July 26. The Great Maumee River Dragon Boat Festival raises funds to support the mission of Partners In Education of Toledo. USAF photo by SrA Sheena Meyer (Released).

The 180th Fighter Wing Team approaches the unloading dock after the first race at the 2008 Dragon Boat Festival on the Maumee River in downtown Toledo, Ohio on July 26. The Great Maumee River Dragon Boat Festival raises funds to support the mission of Partners In Education of Toledo. USAF photo by SrA Sheena Meyer (Released).

The 180th Fighter Wing Team approaches the unloading dock after the first race at the 2008 Dragon Boat Festival on the Maumee River in downtown Toledo, Ohio on July 26. The Great Maumee River Dragon Boat Festival raises funds to support the mission of Partners In Education of Toledo. USAF photo by SrA Sheena Meyer (Released).

Members of the 180th Fighter Wing in Swanton, Ohio head off to the starting line of the first race in the 2008 Dragon Boat Festival on the Maumee River in Downtown Toledo, Ohio on July 26. The Great Maumee River Dragon Boat Festival raises funds to support the mission of Partners In Education of Toledo. USAF photo by SrA Sheena Meyer (Released).

Members of the 180th Fighter Wing in Swanton, Ohio head off to the starting line of the first race in the 2008 Dragon Boat Festival on the Maumee River in Downtown Toledo, Ohio on July 26. The Great Maumee River Dragon Boat Festival raises funds to support the mission of Partners In Education of Toledo. USAF photo by SrA Sheena Meyer (Released).

Members of the 180th Fighter Wing in Swanton, Ohio take a photo with the Stinger Mascot before they participate in the 2008 Dragon Boat Festival on the Maumee River in Downtown Toledo, Ohio on July 26. The Great Maumee River Dragon Boat Festival raises funds to support the mission of Partners In Education of Toledo. USAF photo by SrA Sheena Meyer. (Released)

Members of the 180th Fighter Wing in Swanton, Ohio take a photo with the Stinger Mascot before they participate in the 2008 Dragon Boat Festival on the Maumee River in Downtown Toledo, Ohio on July 26. The Great Maumee River Dragon Boat Festival raises funds to support the mission of Partners In Education of Toledo. USAF photo by SrA Sheena Meyer. (Released)

Members of the 180th Fighter Wing, Swanton, Ohio take a team photo before they participate in the 2008 Dragon Boat Festival on the Maumee River in Downtown Toledo, Ohio on July 26. The Great Maumee River Dragon Boat Festival raises funds to support the mission of Partners In Education of Toledo. USAF photo by SrA Sheena Meyer (Released).

Members of the 180th Fighter Wing, Swanton, Ohio take a team photo before they participate in the 2008 Dragon Boat Festival on the Maumee River in Downtown Toledo, Ohio on July 26. The Great Maumee River Dragon Boat Festival raises funds to support the mission of Partners In Education of Toledo. USAF photo by SrA Sheena Meyer (Released).

August 2008 -- The 180th Fighter Wing "STINGERS" rowed their way to victory by one tenth of a second in the Class D Championship race at the seventh annual Great Maumee River Dragon
Boat Festival held on July 26 at International Park in east Toledo, Ohio. 

"We won our final race by 1/10 of a second over Cumulus Glass City Boaters," said Chief Master Sgt Claudia Jones. "I personally thought we beat them by a mile. We were yelling and screaming all the way to victory." 

The 180th was one of 44 teams from a variety of organizations including schools, businesses, government agencies, churches and other groups that were in the race. The 2008 race was the first ever for the 180th whose boat was sponsored by The Toledo Blade, Toledo Molding and Die, Inc. and Paxton Construction. The festival, which was presented by British Petroleum, included more than 1,200 paddlers with all proceeds benefiting Partners in Education. 

The Dragon Boats, which are about 40 feet long, were manned by a 180th team of 20 paddlers, Capt. Rick Easler, who steered the boat and Airman 1st Class Ashley Bowerman, the drummer beating a cadence to set the pace. Each team participated in three races with a race length of 500 meters. The first two races determined what boat race class the team would participate in as its final race. The first two races were
learning experiences for the 180th. 

"We had three races with the first race coming in second trying to get our sea legs and paddle rhythm together," said Jones. "In our second race, we had points taken off our win because we cut off the Pine Lake Pirates boat." 

The competiveness of the Dragon Boat races increased when the STINGERS team learned it would be in the Class D Championship race. 

"In our third and final race we were ready and waiting for the other three boats to line up at the starting line and they were struggling to get lined up," said Senior Master Sgt. Michael Carman. "That was the longest couple of minutes which in fact could have been five minutes or more but once the starting gun sounded, we were off and in sync all the way." 

The "STINGERS" boat was in command of the Class D Championship race most of the way. "We were close to neck and neck with one of the other boats and I know that everyone tried not to look over at their boat so as to not lose focus on our cadence," said Carman. "But I know we all saw how close it was when we finished and I think we all had a great sense of accomplishment at the end of that race." 

Partners in Education, the beneficiary of the event is a nonprofit organization, established in 1994, and dedicated to promoting student success through community involvement. For many years, Partners in Education has developed partnerships between area public
and parochial schools and Northwest Ohio business, social agencies and places of worship. 

Several members of the "STINGERS" team commented on how much they enjoyed the event. 

"The Dragon Boat Race was an excellent opportunity for the 180th FW to do some good in the community and help build camaraderie amongst each other," said Staff Sgt Alfred
Cranon. "I met people I might not have met had it not been for this." 

Tech. Sgt. Ingrid Mattes said, "We really worked hard at getting in sync as a team in such a short period of time. We won our last race with teamwork, encouragement, and a lot of adrenalin." 

The "STINGERS" team leader, Capt. Richard Easler summed the experience up. "I thought this was a great opportunity for community involvement and our sponsors were very generous in getting us started. We had a lot of fun but we also had a competitive spirit on the team. We were able to show teamwork and made a respectable showing in the standings for our first year. I look forward to doing even better next year." 

Congratulations to the 180th STINGERS team for the outstanding effort at the Great Maumee River Dragon Boat Festival.

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