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International Canoe Racer Takes a New Course as a Kindergarten Teacher

Updated: Sep 21, 2021

Being a Kindergarten teacher requires patience, kindness, enthusiasm, and above all else, lots of energy.

New hire Mary Schlimmer is uniquely qualified for the job.

As an elite international canoe racer, she has the stamina to keep up with her young students.

An Upstate New York native, Ms. Schlimmer has been racing in canoe marathons and sprints since she was a teenager.

Now, she races around the world with her fiancé, who is also a prolific canoe racer.

Canoe Racing

The marathons can last anywhere from one to three hours, with larger events lasting more than 16 hours, and covering dozens of miles.

Ms. Schlimmer is one of just two women to finish Grayling’s Au Sable River Canoe Marathon in under 15 hours. This year, she placed 14th in the women’s race, while her fiancé, Weston, finished second in the men’s division.

“Between March and September, we’re training almost every day for a couple of hours a day on the local rivers like the Boardman, Au Sable, and Manistee river,” said Ms. Schlimmer. “Our canoes are state-of-the-art and made of carbon fiber, so they are super lightweight and fast.”

Dragon Boats

A few years ago, Ms. Schlimmer got recruited to join a Dragon Boat racing team. The sport gained popularity in Asia and has taken her to races around the world.

“The Dragon Boat has 20 paddlers on the left or the right side, then then there’s a dragon head on the front and a dragon tail on the back, with a drummer who sits in front,” she said. “It’s kind of a strange sport!”

In 2019, she competed in a Dragon Boat race in Thailand, and she’s also visited Hungary and Europe to race.

2020 halted a lot of international competitions, but she hopes to get back to business in 2022.

“I’m always chasing the bigger and longer races.”

On her bucket list is the Massive Murray race, a 200+ mile canoe marathon in Australia and the Yukon Race, a 100+ mile course in Canada. As if that’s not enough, she also wants to do a marathon on land.

“That’s the next goal. I’ve done the half-marathons, so I kind of want to focus on running and training properly.”

When Ms. Schlimmer isn’t in the water, or in the classroom, she’s finalizing the details for her October 2021 wedding in Glen Arbor.

“It’s nonstop!” she said.

But if anyone is up for the challenge, it’s Ms. Schlimmer. She says she is thankful to start her career as Kindergarten teacher in Kingsley Schools.

“It's kind of been my dream job, actually. I love the age group and I'm super excited to start out my big-girl career,” she said.

Ms. Schlimmer has a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood and Childhood Education from SUNY Cortland and has previously worked in Great Start Readiness Programs in NW Michigan.

To say hi to Ms. Schlimmer, reach out at

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