WOODLAND – It was destiny for 11-year-old and soon-to-be Moshannon Valley sixth-grader, Alan McCracken, to be in the sport of kayaking.
His grandparents are long-time owners of McCracken’s Canoe Sales and Rental in Clearfield, and are unquestionably a massive influence on how he got into the sport and racing at that.
His aunt, Dawn, is a very decorated kayak racer herself and who he looks up to most in the sport. When asked about keeping with the family tradition, Alan said: “It feels pretty good.
“There are not a lot of people who can do what I can.” Additionally, there aren’t many people who can do what his aunt Dawn has done in her kayak racing career either.
Alan’s ultimate goal is to continue competition for many years to come, and accumulate as many racing medals as his aunt has over the years.
From Aug. 11-15, Alan headed to Warren County to race on the Allegheny River at Chapman Dam in the 2021 United States Canoe Association (USCA) National Championships.
This is a familiar host site as the area has hosted the most USCA National Championship events of any other venue.
Overall, the sixth-grader took home five first-place finishes, including victories in the K1 Youth Marathon, K1 Youth Race, Stand-Up Paddleboard, K2 Woman and Youth with his aunt Dawn, and in the K1 Unlimited Man-Junior. He also took home a second-place mark in the C1 Youth Race.
His victory in the marathon race on Saturday, Aug. 14 may just be his most impressive, as it was an 11-mile race on the Allegheny River that spanned from the base of the Kinzua Dam to Betts Park in Warren.
In this marathon race, Alan was the youngest competitor within an age range, spanning from 11 years old to that of one competitor who was 99 years old.
At around 6 or 7 years of age, Alan raced competitively for the first time, though this was not his first time on a river.
“People should know they do not have to race to have a good time,” he said. “I think that just taking a ride down the river and seeing the outdoors can be a good time.”
While racing in nationals, he was able to meet with and race alongside a former two-time Olympic Champion in Greg Barton.
Barton was a sprint kayaker who has won four Olympic medals overall and qualified for the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, the 1988 games in Seoul and the 1992 event held in Barcelona. Now 61, he still participates in events.
Alan is the son of Crystal English of Madera and the late Alec McCracken. He believes the 2021 race season has come to a close with the start of a new school year.
He ended his 2021 season on a high note, and his future in kayaking is sure to be filled with great promise.