Cal Poly Concrete Canoe Team Makes History

Written by Theresa-Marie Wilson

Theresa-Maria Wilson has been a journalist covering the North Coast and South County area for over 20 years. She is also the founder of Cat Noir CC and is currently working on a novel.

July 14, 2022

Cal Poly’s history-making concrete canoe team includes from left, Clarissa Arredondo, Nathan Felde, Sarah Scherzinger, Carson Bak, Heather Migdal, Michael Wang and Peter Cline. The team earned Cal Poly’s sixth national title — and is the most championships held by any school since the competition began in 1988. Not pictured is Nick Toma.

After a two-year delay due to COVID-19, the Cal Poly concrete canoe team returned to its winning ways at the 2022 American Society of Civil Engineers Concrete Canoe Competition at Louisiana Tech University on June 3-5. The victory marks Cal Poly’s sixth championship in the 35-year history of the competition.

Competing with their space-themed canoe Europa against 19 other universities in Ruston, Louisiana, located about 240 miles north of New Orleans, eight Cal Poly engineering students not only swept the races but also finished first in the technical presentation and technical proposal categories of the competition and second in the final product prototype. Université Laval of Canada finished second, Western Kentucky was third, Youngstown State was fourth and New York University-Tandon finished fifth.

Cal Poly also received the R. John Craig Memorial Award, which honors the New Jersey Institute of Technology professor who spent several years promoting his grand vision of the National Concrete Canoe Competition to the ASCE but died just months before the first event was held in 1988. In the years since, the competition has become a perennial favorite for tens of thousands of college students in the United States and beyond.

ASCE presents the award to the winner of the Coed Sprint Race as a memorial to the teamwork and dedication of Craig.  

Cal Poly civil and environmental engineering students, from left to right, Carson Bak, Sarah Scherzinger, Heather Migdal and Nick Toma paddle during the coed race at the 2022 American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Concrete Canoe Competition, June 3-5, at Louisiana Tech University.

“It feels amazing,” said civil engineering senior Heather Migdal, construction team lead. “My team and I have sacrificed so much of our time working on the canoe this year, so taking home the national title made it all worth it. It truly became a labor of love.”  

Along with Migdal, the team included longtime faculty advisor Garrett Hall, civil and environmental engineering professor, and students Clarissa Arredondo, Carson Bak, Peter Cline, Nathan Felde, Sarah Scherzinger, Nicholas Toma and Michael Wang. Together they set a new standard in the history of the ASCE competition.  

The concrete canoe team operates under the umbrella of Cal Poly’s chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers. The team follows a set of prescribed rules governing the design of the concrete and all other aspects of the competition. Students gain hands-on experience mixing and testing concrete, constructing the mold and reinforcement systems, applying the aesthetic design elements and ultimately fabricating the competition canoe.  

The Cal Poly win snapped what had been a four-way tie of five titles with UC Berkeley, the University of Alabama in Huntsville and the University of Wisconsin. Cal Poly also won concrete canoe championships in 2010-12, 2017 and 2018.  

“I’m so proud of our team for breaking this record and having the most all-time wins,” said Migdal. “We didn’t know what to expect when we got here because there hadn’t been a national competition in a few years but knew we would see some pretty canoes. It was just so exciting to see how everything turned out.”  

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