Surrounded by friends and family in the lobby of Peach State Bank on Tuesday afternoon, kayaker Morgan House was honored as a "hometown hero."
House recently returned from Olympic qualifying competitions in Canada and Hungary, where he came within one second of making the 2008 Olympic team in the one-man sprint kayak (K1) 500 meters.
"We like to honor those who have made a significant impact in the community," Peach State Bank president Ron Quinn said. "Morgan has touched the lives of thousands of kids through the Lanier Canoe and Kayak Center. He’s a role model and a go-getter who isn’t going to quit. He’s just a great inspiration."
Peach State Bank honors a "hometown hero" monthly, usually highlighting their accomplishments via advertising.
For House, a Gainesville High graduate, Quinn wanted to give the community the chance to personally honor Peach State Bank’s newest hero.
"At first I was nervous (about the community-wide reception)," House said. "It was embarassing to me, and I didn’t know what to think.
"But this has turned out to be an incredible show of support. Plus, I’ve seen friends from high school that I hadn’t seen since high school."
Also in attendance to congratulate and honor House were Gainesville High teachers and staff members, as well as former Executive Director of the Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club, Connie Hagler and her husband Richard. Current kayaking coaches at the LCKC, Dave and Devri Robertson also attended.
"Morgan has been super-inspirational to the kids working out at the LCKC," Dave Robertson said. "They’ve been following along with him this year and saw how close he came to making the Olympic team.
"It’s just very inspirational for them to see someone from our community do what he’s done, and I know that he’ll be there in 2012 (Olympic Games in London)."
House begins his quest for the 2012 Olympic team today, when he leaves for Oklahoma where he will begin training for the USA Canoe/Kayak Flatwater Sprint Nationals.
The nationals are Aug. 5-9 at the Chesapeake Boathouse in Oklahoma City, Okla.
"People ask me if I could have done more or done something different (to make the 2008 Olympic team)," House said. "I went as hard as I could and did as well as I could and, in training I’m going to keep doing the same things I did to get me in the position to make the team in the first place."