SOUTH SIOUX CITY | The winner of this year's South Dakota Kayak Challenge came in just nine minutes shy of last year's record time to complete the 72-mile Missouri River journey.
The race runs from Yankton, South Dakota to South Sioux City, Nebraska.
Matt Story of Canton, South Dakota, finished first, reaching South Sioux City in eight hours and 26 minutes. Last year's winner, Dave Hutchinson of Montana, still holds the record time of eight hours and 17 minutes.
When Story reached the finish line at 3:26 p.m., the sun was shining and the temperature was mild. Earlier in the day, he said, the weather was a bit damp.
"It was raining this morning, for a period," Story said. "But then the rain slowed down, and it was just lightly sprinkling, and after that it was pretty nice."
Ten minutes after Story arrived, Rusty Self of Hannibal, Missouri reached the finish line. Self said Saturday's the weather was favorable for a kayak race.
"We had a tailwind almost the whole way here, it was outstanding," he said.
Jim Pechous, of Lombard, Illinois, was beaming as he crossed the finish line Saturday afternoon.
Pechous said he joined a kayaking club in Illinois several years ago, thinking it was a casual club but later discovered it was actually a racing club. He decided to keep kayaking with the group, even though he wasn't sure of his abilities.
"I didn't know what I got myself into. And so I stuck with it, and continued paddling, and then I did some races with them, and found that I really liked doing races," Pechous said. "And then a couple of members of the club had me do this race, and I didn't think I was going to make it the first year."
When Pechous did this race three years ago, he said it took him over 12 hours to complete the 72-mile course.
"This year I ended up with a time under nine hours," he said with a smile on his face.