Fourteen-year-old Donnelly among four-pack of superstars at Women’s Coors Light Steep Creek Championships event

The rapids of Homestake Creek are known for their jagged lines and heavy consequences, something that more than a few female competitors learned the hard way at the 2015 GoPro Mountain Games.

Clean lines were the order of the day at this year’s Coors Light Steep Creek Championships, however, and all four women competing in the event made it down not only unscathed, but breezing through the course with apparent ease.

“It’s a mental and emotional game,” said 20-year-old paddler Hayley Stuart of Denver. “You have to be in the competitive mindset, but you really have to be confident in your skills and in the course itself, you really have to know the rapids inside and out. Studying from the shore, studying other athletes go[ing] down, and then feeling it out yourself are all important to be able to pull off a good run.”

The intensity of the course was not lost on 14-year-old phenomenon Sage Donnelly, who found similar difficulty when training for the challenges of the course.

“I really study the course, and run it a lot, to practice and learn my lines,” she said. “Before the race I listen to music and run my lines again in my head to get in the zone. Before that, my training just consists of spending as much time as I can on the water.”

Donnelly finished the course with the same result as last year: second place. Donnelly has big plans for the future, hoping to continue competing in the GoPro Mountain Games with the ultimate goal of making the Kayaking Olympic Team. 

First place went to 23-year-old Nouria Newman of Tignes, France. She was followed by Donnelly in second, Adriene Levknecht of Greenville, South Carolina in third, and Stuart of Denver, Colorado in fourth.