US Rafting Team meet and greet Friday at Sweetwater |

US Rafting Team meet and greet Friday at Sweetwater

— This time last year, Oak Creek's Sarah Hamilton was preparing for another long summer in her kayak.

Now, she's still got her eyes on the river, but her means of transportation down it has changed.

Hamilton joined the U.S. women's rafting team late last summer just in time for a competition in Costa Rica. Now the water sports fanatic is preparing for her second season on the squad, and locals will have a chance to see just what she's gotten herself into from 4 to 6 p.m. today at Sweetwater Grill in downtown Steamboat Springs.

Hamilton's team will be at the location for a meet and greet during happy hour, telling stories, showing pictures and videos of their trips and looking for donations to help fund another summer on the river.

"I love it," Hamilton said. "I'm honored to be a part of this team."

Hamilton was invited to join the team after impressing in her kayak at Timberline Gore Canyon Race. She wasted little time fully investing in the squad. She traveled to Costa Rica for an event at this year's World Championships venue and now is making the drive to the Vail-area training grounds at least three times a week.

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"I love it. I love the girls," Hamilton said. "I participate in a lot of male-dominated sports, and it's really great to have the camaraderie I have with these other women. As hard as we're working, we're having a lot of fun, too."

The team is in line for a busy summer. It travels next month to Oregon's Clackamas River for the U.S. National Championships. The World Championships await in Costa Rica in October.

"We are ready to be the champions this coming season," Hamilton said. "It will take some work, team building and a lot of commitment from each of us equally."

Hamilton hopes to introduce her team to her hometown today at Sweetwater. The squad is based near Vail, but members are scattered across the region.

The team will work out at Manic Training today before the event at Sweetwater and then will try to show Routt County just what world-class rafting is all about.

"In the future, this team will become more of a fixture in our community, and I hope people will follow the sport more," Hamilton said. "We want to show how hard we work and how honored we are to be a part of the team."

— To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email

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