Local kayakers use Lake Jericho for training

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By The Staff

By Greg Woods--

Not many people think of Lake Jericho as a place for kayaking whether it be recreational or competitive, but Sylvia Bednarski of Oldham County has been paddling at the lake for several years.

Bednarski lives on Ballard School Road and part of her and her husband Jon’s farm is in Henry County. Though she lives just minutes from the lake, she had no idea it existed until they decided several years ago to build a pond on their farm.

“We needed ideas for a dam and conservation officer Kurt Mason, who we knew from our conservation work, brought us over here to show us the dam at Lake Jericho,” Bednarski said. “I’ve been coming out here ever since to kayak around the lake recreationally. I like to take wildlife pictures and Lake Jericho has a lot of wildlife. It’s beautiful here.”

Bednarski’s love for water sports started when she met Jon.

“Our first date in 1981 was a canoeing trip on the Blue River in Indiana,” Bednarski said. “When we got married in 1983 our honeymoon was in Georgia and we went white water rafting on the river where they filmed ‘Deliverance’. I don’t remember when we started kayaking but when we did, it was just ‘toodling’ around lakes like this one. I still enjoy canoeing but I like kayaking much better.”

Bednarski was a teacher and cross county coach in the Oldham County school system for most of her teaching career. She also ran distance races until a serious car accident ended her competitive running career.

“I’m a competitive person and I really missed running. I needed another outlet for my competitive side.”

Three years ago she met Ron Hatch, a competitive kayaker from Oldham County, who uses Lake Jericho to train for competition.

Ron saw me out here paddling around the lake and asked me to try competitive kayaking,” Bednarski said. “He put me in his racing kayak, which is very different from a recreational kayak and then laughed at me as I tried to keep afloat. I took many swims out here because the racing kayaks are more unstable than the recreational kayaks.

“But it appealed to my competitive side and it was something that I could still do after the injuries I suffered in the car accident.”

Hatch raced in the Kentucky Waterman Series and encouraged Bednarski to give it a try.

According to www.explorekentucky.us, “The Kentucky Waterman Series is a statewide paddlesports league that is now in its third year and guides paddlers of all skill levels on an amazing journey across the state’s scenic waterways and lakes through several amazing float, kayak, canoe and stand-up paddleboard race events.”

Bednarski started practicing for the series in 2016 and competed in her first race in 2017.

“It was 22 miles from Westport to Louisville on the Ohio River,” Bednarski said.

Then in 2018 she began competing in the Waterman series. She said that each competitor must race in at least four races and the best time out of four events determines the season standings.

“I placed first in the sea kayak long distance division,” Bednarski said. “Those races range in length from 10 miles up to 22 miles.”

Seeking a new challenge, she decided to do the shorter six-mile races this season.

“I wanted to see if I could be competitive at that distance,” Bednarski said. “With my cross country background, I am better at the longer distances but there are more competitors at the shorter distance.”

Bednarski said that the competitions are divided by the type of kayak they use and not age groups.

Bednarski said she trains at Lake Jericho at least two times a week.

“Lake Jericho is great for training because of the idle speed rule that is strictly enforced,” she said. “It’s just beautiful out here and I give a lot of credit to Mike Maddox who keeps everything beautifully maintained.”

Maddox also helps her unload her kayak from her pickup truck most days.

“I can do it myself but it is awkward and he helps me out a lot,” Bednarski said.

Bednarski loves kayaking on Lake Jericho so much that she promotes it with her friends when she gets the chance.

“I have brought so many people out here over the years,” Bednarski said. “A lot of my girlfriends don’t like to go on the river or even in Harrod’s Creek. I have brought a lot of people out here for just a relaxing day on the water.”