A concrete canoe race may sound ridiculous.
But for engineering students like Linda Clowater, the test of buoyant boatmanship was anything but.
Ms. Clowater, a student at Michigan State University and veteran anchor paddler for the school's canoe team, said brawn as well as brains pulled her team through as champions of the Third Annual National Concrete Canoe Competition.
"I just kept shouting for my partner to keep going," Ms. Clowater said. "It was well worth all the work we put into it."
She and her partners, Julie Vandenbossche and Dave Jeakle, crossed the watery finish line of the University at Buffalo's St. Rita Lake Saturday as first place women's and co-ed teams.
The race was the final leg of a two-part contest sponsored by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
"This is a much tighter competition this year," Ms. Clowater said, noting that the actual boat race was only a part of the full competition.
The 19 civil engineering teams were judged Friday for the oral and written presentation of their concrete canoe's design. That accounted for 60 percent of each team's total points.
But the last leg of the competition was strictly physical, with 100- and 200-meter races against top contenders who came from as far away as Berkeley, Calif., and the University of Mexico.
A total of $9,000 in scholarship money from Master Builders Inc. of Cleveland, Ohio, was awarded to the civil engineering departments of the three top winners.
The first place overall winner was the Michigan State team, which took a $5,000 scholarship. The University of Maryland team came in a close second with a $2,500 scholarship and the University of California at Berkeley team was third with $1,500.
"These students put a lot of time into this project," said Joe Atkinson, the events coordinator and UB faculty adviser. He noted that none of the students forgot the importance of aesthetic appeal.
Every canoe was painted in the bright colors of the home school. Some students braved the waves with names like University of New Mexico's "Roe vs. Wade" and Berkeley's "Ex-Calibear."
"It took about 400 men-and-women hours to complete the boat," said Eric Schwaner, from New Mexico's "Roe vs. Wade."
"We picked the name because we'd rather row than wade," he said.
Although Schwaner's team came in near last place with its 200-pound craft, he said he learned from the experience.
"It cost us $1,600 to ship our boat, . . . and now we have to find a place to dump it because it costs too much to ship it back," Schwaner said. "Maybe we'll send it down the falls."
The Michigan State entry held the creative title of the "Rowing Stone."
Designers Julie Townsend and Janiene DeVinney from the University of Michigan said fans of the concrete project were so fired up that more than 40 people drove here to cheer their team on.
"We really are enthusiastic at the university about the event," Ms. DeVinney said. "I know I'm coming to the event next year."
Teams were presented awards at UB North Campus Talbert Dining Hall at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
Fourth and fifth place winners University of Texas at Austin and University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee will receive a commemorative plaque.