Dragon Boat Charleston team wins national title

'Paddles and Pearls,' Dragon Boat Charleston's Breast Cancer Survivors Team, won the national championship over the weekend in Chicago. Photo provided.

“Paddles and Pearls,” the Dragon Boat Charleston’s Breast Cancer Survivor Team, is the 2015 national champion. Over the weekend the team of approximately two dozen female breast cancer survivors won its division at the Crew Club National Championships in Chicago.

“This team beat teams from Chicago, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and many other major cities,” said Meagan Labriola, executive director of Dragon Boat Charleston (dragonboatcharleston.org). “Last fall they competed at the International Breast Cancer Survivors Championships in Sarasota, Fla., against 111 other teams and came in fourth. The only U.S. team to beat us in Sarasota was ‘Pink Steel’ out of Pittsburgh.

“We trained and trained and trained and had our rematch this past weekend in Chicago. We beat ‘Pink Steel’ and came in No. 1 in the nation.”

The team is coached by Noreen Powers with Betty Pigott as team captain. Other team members include Pam Allen, Wendy Anderson, JoAnn Anthony, Pat Arenson, Alice Bova, Maria Copses, Fran Corbin, Deb Dutcher, Ginny Fields, Sherrie Graham, Laurie Kramer, Dannie Manning, Mickey Maw, Barbara Moyer, Jan Nations, Vicki O’Neill, Debbie Phillips, Deb Ponton, Lois Randall, Joyce Rasberry, Cassy Salgado, Gloria Seaborn, Lucy Spears and Alice Turner.

The victory by “Paddles and Pearls” also qualified the team to compete in the International Dragon Boat Federal Club Crew Championships that will be held in April 2016 in Adelaide, Australia.

“We are already making our plans,” Labriola said. “It’s unbelievably expensive. It’s going to be a big personal commitment for everybody involved. We have some unique fundraisers planned. We will make it happen.”

Labriola said Dragon Boat Charleston is a club for anyone who has had any type of cancer. The club was founded in 2003 with a mission of promoting health and wellness of cancer survivors. The Breast Cancer Survivors’ team is a part of the club.

Dragon boats are narrow, canoe-like vessels, approximately 40 feet long, with 10 rows of seats for 20 paddlers plus a drummer. Labriola said Dragon Boat Charleston keeps its boats at Bristol Marina, next to Brittlebank Park. The Breast Cancer Survivors’ team practices year-round, three times a week on the Ashley River.

“This team is such an inspiration,” Labriola said. “This is a group of women who beat a horrible, horrible disease, but have now gone on to become national champions.”

Among Dragon Boat Charleston’s upcoming events will be the Carolina Celebration Cup featuring teams from throughout the region competing Sept. 19 at Trophy Lakes on Johns Island. Another major event is Prevention-Palooza, a festival scheduled Nov. 1 to demonstrate how fitness and nutrition can help prevent cancer.