Patience, perseverance pay for marathon champs
Rob Wilkins of Indian River powers his Class 25SSR Stock Runabout down Indian River Sunday at the Top O' Michigan Outboard Marathon Nationals near DeVoe Park in Indian River. Wilkins captured his first national title since 2001. (Steve Foley/News-Review / August 13, 2012)
He's watched it many times, his uncle and cousin each have earned national titles in the two-day 80-plus mile race, and four years ago he decided to get in the cockpit of a Class C Stock Runabout.
On a sunny wind-swept Sunday afternoon, Pearson, 27, won his first Class C national title by holding off Mark Kurz of Indian River and the largest class in the race field to earn first place in the annual event which covers six different lakes and rivers along the Inland Waterway.
"I feel on top of the world right now," Pearson said. "I grew up in Indian River, I live in Mount Pleasant now with my wife, but I've been coming up here every year and have been watching it every year. It feels great to finally be in the race and let alone win it.
"I can't explain the feeling of it."
Pearson, who was driving fellow racer Kim Park's boat, overcame rough water Saturday during the first half of the race north through Mullett Lake, where he punctured a hole in his 475-pound craft yet still managed to finish first in his class.
"I'm really happy with the result," Pearson said. "I was more concerned about the boat than I really was about myself (Saturday). We were able to flip it over and patched it up and I just hoped for the best. The boat held up."
With a lead entering Sunday's second half of the course, Pearson knew he just had to finish ahead of Kurz to take the checkered flag. Sunday's course took racers across Burt Lake through the Crooked River and around Crooked Lake, back through the Indian River to a turnaround in Mullett Lake, and then a return through the Indian River to a finish line at the pits at DeVoe Park in Indian River.
"He (Kurz) passed me in the north end of Burt Lake and I passed him in Crooked Lake," Pearson said. "Then he passed me back in Burt Lake before about a mile out from Indian River I passed him again. My plan was to stay ahead of him going into Indian River and if I could do that, I figured I'd have the race."
Pearson, who's cousin Josh Pearson is a four-time winner in Class D and his uncle, Gordon Pearson, is also a winner in Class D, said he was thankful for having solid roots entering the race years ago.
"I've had some good teachers and I have a lot to be thankful for in them," Pearson said. "I also have to think Kim Park. He's won this race before as well and he's always been a good contender."
Pearson added the rough water conditions favored his racing style.
"I loved the conditions," he said. "I love the rough water and I get over it pretty well. There were a few times coming into Indian River I got about 3 feet of air off some waves, it kind of scared me a little bit, but it was either fly out of the boat or pass Mark, that was the strategy for the day."
Kurz finished second on both days and was second overall, while Tyler Shenski of Flat Rock was third.
Terry Kerr has witnessed it all in his 23-year career racing at the marathon nationals.
Everything except an outright victory.
The Gibralter native's wait finally came to an end Sunday as the 38-year-old held off a fast challenge from Anne Blomberg to capture his first Class A Stock Runabout national title.
Kerr, who last year shared the title with Lynne Blomberg (Anne's sister) of Harbor Springs because of an equipment disqualification, has been telling himself he'd retire after he finally wins in Class A.