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Lake Lanier hosting US Canoe and Kayak Sprint Nationals
Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club looking to defend title
Kayakers participate in practice races Wednesday at Clarks Bridge Park in Gainesville. The USACK Sprint National Championships open today. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

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Morgan House cherishes the opportunity to welcome visiting canoe and kayak athletes to his home turf on Lake Lanier.

As a strong candidate for the London 2012 Summer Olympic Games in the kayak, House, from Gainesville, is a bit of an ambassador for the approximately 70 Lanier Canoe & Kayak athletes who will be right at home for the U.S. Canoe & Kayak Sprint National Championships that open today and wrap up Saturday at Clarks Bridge Park.

"Lake Lanier is a hidden gem," said House, who lives and trains now in Hawaii. "I love seeing so many paddlers come to Lanier and show them Gainesville.

"It's great to come back and see all the familiar faces."

Club teams representing San Diego, Oklahoma City, Hawaii, Washington, D.C. and Seattle, to name a few, make up the approximately 400 athletes who will be competing in different age classes and events.

All points earned by athletes are tallied together on the final day to crown the champion. The LCKC is the defending champion and has the largest contingent in this year's event.

San Diego also brought a large group with approximately 70 members.

"This is a great venue, great course and also has good viewing for the spectators and athletes," said 18-year-old Lexie Bohlman from the San Diego Canoe & Kayak Club.

Even though House, 24, is only in town for a couple of days for this event before flying to Europe to prepare for the Senior World Championships, and hopefully qualifying for the Olympics, he's honored to get to come home and do whatever he can to bring a win for the home club.

House says this is the first time he's competed on Lake Lanier for two years, and it's a great homecoming to where he learned to paddle at age 8.

House isn't the only one enjoying a homecoming for this three-day festival of some of the nation's best paddlers and rowers.

US National coach Guy Wilding is in town to keep an eye on team members and track their training, along with scouting potential elite talent.

Before taking the job with USACK, he was the head coach with the LCKC.

He says the best part of such a large-scale event is that it fairly crowns a true national champion.

The best part, in Wilding's eyes, for having this event in Hall County is the preparation that organizers and volunteers put into planning.

Without the tireless hours of preparing, there would be no national championship on Lake Lanier.

"The hospitality here in Gainesville is second to none," Wilding said.

For athletes like House who will be competing in the Senior World Championships, they'll head to Italy next week to begin training for the event, which is Aug. 17-21 in Szeged, Hungary.

Meanwhile, Ian Ross is in transition with his training. He'll be rowing for the seven-member team from his hometown Washington, D.C. this week, but recently moved to Gainesville to train year-round on Lake Lanier.

He says the national championship is great to see old friends who are all equally yoked with their passion for spending their free time on the water.

"The biggest thing I've noticed is all the hard work the volunteers have put into getting the area ready," Ross said. "The course is straight as an arrow."


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