Walton & Proulx take AuSable sprint lead, Al Widing Sr. makes it 41 races

 GRAYLING – The AuSable River Canoe Marathon saved the best for last at Wednesday’s Sprints.

The final duo of the day, Nick Walton and Christophe Proulx, bested Weston Willoughby and Matt Streib by about 8 seconds during the first day of time trials.

Walton and Prouxl finished with a time of 5:47.04.

“It’s a good time,” Walton said.  “We’re a second and a half faster than last year I believe they said, so that’s pretty good.  The water’s up a little bit from last year, but it doesn’t really affect us.  Coming up, I mean, we pretty much push off of the bottom, so we can go pretty good still.”

However, that lead may not be safe because the six-time defending champs paddle for track position Thursday.  Andy Triebold and Steve Lajoie will be the last to sprint Thursday.

The legendary Al Widing Sr. and his son Al Widing Jr. posted a time of 8:01.60 Wednesday.  That was better than four other competitors that day.

Widing Sr. raced in the original AuSable Marathon in 1955.  This weekend will mark the 41st race for the 89-year-old competitor.

Marathon Spokesman Phil Weiler indicates that Widing Sr. has his fair share of fans at the event.

“Now that the Al buzz is going, you wait, the crowds, the bridges, the dams are going to be HUGE,” Weiler said.  “I mean, regardless of the time, regardless of wherever, it’s all about Al.  And you know, he’s our legend.”

The current leaders certainly know about “Amazing Al.”

“Everyone knows Al, I mean, he’s an icon,” Walton said.  “So, he’s definitely known up in Quebec.  He’s like a celebrity up there.  I know I couldn’t do it at 89, probably.  It’s tough to do at 41.  But we wish him the best and hope he finishes.”

Widing Sr. last raced in 2012.  He and teammate Hailey MacMahon finished the race and placed 57th out of 71 competitors.