A kayak and canoe are docked on the banks of the Tenney Park lagoon near the John Wall Family Pavilion. By the boats a family of four is working on some crepe paper decorations and a congratulatory sign in preparation for competing in the Tenney Lap.
This casual boat race around the Tenney Park lagoon is as wholesome as it comes: neighborhood fun, healthy competition, and outdoor adventure, all rolled into 15 exciting minutes. Tony Sturm created the Tenney Lap in 2019 when he became fed up with staring at an empty lagoon and has been running the annual race ever since. This year’s event was held May 22.
“I was somewhat frustrated that we have this really cool lagoon in our neighborhood, and you almost never see anyone in the water there. It’s frustrating to me that we are on this isthmus, and for so many people, the water is ignored,” says Sturm. “So I decided that we should try to paddle around [the lagoon]. And it could even be a race, but it should be fun. Boating is fun and getting in the water is fun and people can try to go fast if they want or they can just be proud of themselves for paddling slow.”
Ten minutes before the race is set to begin, a few more boats make it to the shoreline. Kendall Meuwissen is one of the first to arrive, her kayak in tow. She decided to join the race because she had never kayaked the Tenney Lagoon before. She’d picked up kayaking during the statewide shutdown as a hobby to keep her safely occupied.
“I’m going to try to race!” Meuwissen says, chuckling. “I can’t say I’m in shape though. [The Tenney Lap ribbon] will go proudly on my wall either way.”
Eventually, canoes and kayaks are floating in from all ends of the lagoon. Neighborhood residents hop out of their boats and onto dry land to greet one another. The joy of togetherness is in the air. Several of the families here today had opted out the last two years, including Sandy Froeschner’s family, who finally felt comfortable enough to return to race again this spring in their bright blue canoe aptly named the Blue-Eyed Lady Killer.
“It’s so nice seeing everyone after the pandemic,” she says. “And the kids love it.”
By 3:27 p.m., all boats are in the water playing bumper cars as Sturm starts shouting directions to the competitors.
“On your marks! Get set! GO!” cries Sturm, who is now sporting a crisp new captain’s hat. The boats are off and soon out of view.
After about seven minutes, the racers, paddling furiously, round the bend. In first place is Matt Minich and Ryan Elliott in their green canoe, arms raised in victory as they cross the finish line. Following close behind are Lucas and Lucia Ecklund, a father-daughter duo in a red canoe who have competed every year. In third place is the Blue-Eyed Lady Killer carrying Sandy, her husband, Davie, and their daughter, Alyda.
The 2022 Tenney Lap winners are all smiles as they rest in their canoes just past the finish line, cheering on the rest of the paddlers. This is their first year in the race.
“It feels really great to be in first place,” says Minich. “We were pretty tired around the bend. We got stuck in some algae and we thought it was all over, but we pulled through!”
Minich and Elliot receive monocles (yes, you read that right) for coming in first, but no one leaves empty-handed: all competitors receive a bright blue ribbon that reads “I lapped the Lagoon–Tenney Lap 2022.”
Number and type of watercraft:
9 kayaks, 6 canoes, 1 stand-up paddleboard
2 years old
First place time:
Second place time:
Third place time:
Distance around Tenney Park lagoon:
approximately 0.5 miles