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Trio of LCKC athletes shine at US Team Trials, qualify for Pan American Games
Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club's Chris Miller wins the Senior Men K1 1000 meter Heat 1 race Friday morning during the 2016 USA Canoe/Kayak Sprint National Team Trials at the Lake Lanier Olympic Park. - photo by Scott Rogers | The Times

Saturday's schedule

When: Racing begins at 9 a.m.

Where: Lake Lanier Olympic Park

How much: Free

Three local athletes are a step closer to realizing their Olympic dreams after victories Friday at the U.S. National Team trials at the Lake Lanier Olympic Park.

Chris Miller dominated the senior men’s kayak (K1) 1,000 meters and later teamed with Stanton Collins to win the senior men’s K2 1,000 meters, and Ian Ross captured the senior mean’s canoe (C1), 1,000 meters by tenths of a second on a sunny day in Gainesville.

All three Lake LCKC products qualified for the Pan American Games on May 19-22, also at Lake Lanier. With wins at the Pan Am Games, they would earn a spot on the U.S. Olympic team and head to Brazil in August for the 2016 Summer Games.

Miller dusted the field in the K1 1,000, leading comfortably down the final stretch and coasting to victory. He credited adrenaline from “race-day jitters” for a quick start, turned it up at the 250-meter mark and stayed smooth to finish off an impressive win. He beat second-place finisher Kalei Kaho’okele by nearly six seconds and had plenty left in the tank.

“That was probably the hardest I’ve gone in a race this year,” Miller said. “I still think I have a little bit more. Once I hit that 250 [meters], I thought, ‘This race is mine.’ I got into a good rhythm … and felt like keeping it smooth.”

Collins and fellow LCKC paddler Aaron Mullican finished fourth and fifth respectively, behind Miller.

Just minutes after winning, Miller headed back out on the dock and cheered on Ross down the stretch of a tight race in the C1 1,000 meters. Ross had a lead in the final 250 meters, but was challenged to the finish line by Justin Staubach. Ross (4 minutes, 11.15 seconds) held off Staubach (4:11.37) by two tenths of a second and also bested his brother, third-place finisher Gavin Ross.

LCKC paddler Alex McLain finished third in the senior women’s K1 500 meters, and LCKC’s Nik Miller finished fourth in the para-men’s K1 200 meters.

Promising young LCKC paddler Owen Farley-Klacik won the junior C1 1,000 meters in impressive fashion, besting second-place finisher Noa Harper by 3 1/2 seconds. Farley-Klacik then teamed with Owen Ozaki to win the junior K2 1,000 meters.

Eighteen LCKC paddlers and 105 athletes overall will compete in the two-day event. Saturday’s slate gets going at 9 a.m. with the Para Women K1 200 meter final. Gainesville native Ben Hefner, the No. 1 ranked paddler in the C1 200 meters, will attempt to secure his spot in the Pan Am Games in the senior men’s finals, slated for 12:55 p.m.

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