Some of the best finishes during the final day of the U.S. Canoe and Kayak Sprint National Championships turned out to be great battles between the Lanier Canoe & Kayak Club's own Saturday at Clarks Bridge Park.
LCKC earned six first-place finishes in the finals to solidify the overall title. Just like the first two days of competition, the local athletes utilized a sizable edge in terms of participants over visiting clubs from across the country, earning 20 top-three finishes.
"We did great as a team," said LCKC canoe athlete Robert Finlayson. "We're winning a lot of races, getting a lot of top-five finishes and earning a lot of medals."
The Seattle Canoe and Kayak Club finished second, and Gig Harbor Washington placed third.
Finlayson was involved in a photo finish late in the day when he placed second behind LCKC coach and race winner Claudiu Ciur in the men's one-person canoe (C-1) senior 200 meter final.
The race was so close it required a review from the scoring tower to determine that Ciur, a 2004 Olympic qualifier from Romania, won with a time of 44.571 seconds, and just .18 seconds ahead of Finlayson.
But when it's a competition to see how many points your team can compile for the eventual national championship, that's exactly the kind of scenario the LCKC envisioned.
Ciur also teamed with Rich Stewart to take first in the C-2 senior 200.
"This competition is just a great show of all these amazing athletes," Ciur said.
Even though the coach beat the pupil in the C-1 race, it's Finlayson who has the Olympic dreams as he heads off this week for the Senior World Championships in Szeged, Hungary.
Finlayson and Ciur will spend a week training in Romania before the Senior World meet opens on Aug. 17.
Meanwhile LCKC's Stanton Collins and Tanner Easterday edged out the Hawaii Canoe & Kayak Team's Trenton Dos Santos Tam and Alex-scanner Cheung in the K-2 (two-person kayak) junior 200 finals for the win with a time of 37.223.
The team from Hawaii finished at 37.33.
The win was especially satisfying for Collins and Easterday since they lost to the same competitors in the Junior National Team Trials last month in Lake Placid, N.Y. Collins said the key to winning this rematch on Lake Lanier was a fast start.
Easterday added that the win in this race was more unexpected since they are both considered best in the long distance events.
"This was a grudge match for us," said the 17-year old Collins, who also grabbed a third-place finish in the K-1 junior 200.
LCKC also took another K-2 victory, this time in the juvenile 200 meter from Graham Roper and Chance Bloomer with a time of 41.768. They won by almost a second ahead of Logan Spencer (HCKT) and Dylan Puckett (Oklahoma City).
Bloomer said the race didn't start ideally when he angled the boat too much to start, but was quickly able to correct and win the race by one meter.
Winning at home in front of family and friends makes these national championship victories even sweeter.
"We train for 25 hours a week for 40 seconds of racing," Bloomer said.
In the juvenile K-1 200, Roper finished second (43.781) and Bloomer was third (43.959).
Also winning for the LCKC were Tim Hornsby (K-1 senior 200) and Avana Bennett/Farran Smith (C-2 juvenile 200).
Emily Mickle and Emily Vinson earned second in the women's K-2 senior 200 for LCKC, Vinson took second in the K-1 senior 200, and Ben Hefner placed second in the C-2 Senior 200 with Ian Ross.
Third-place finishers were Morgan House (K-1 senior 200), Hannah Shilling (C-2 Junior 200), Riley Brunner and Cole Burchardt (C-2 juvenile 200), Aaron Mullican and James Watson (C-2 junior 200), Alejandro Schwedhelm and Finlayson (C-2 Senior 200) and Elle Hefner/Karrena Paul (K-2 juvenile 200).