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Locals fare well at first day of Olympic Trials
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Lanier Canoe and Kayak Center trainees Morgan House and Tim Hornsby are one step closer to living their Olympic dream.

The two  each took first place at the Flatwater Sprint Olympic Trials on Friday in Oklahoma City, giving them the opportunity for a nomination for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

"Everybody did really well today," LCKC coach Dave Robertson said. "We definitely had some big surprises."

Although the LCKC has only been active since the events held on Lake Lanier during the 1996 Olympics, the current crop of senior competitors have a "very realistic chance of competing in the Olympics," according to Robertson.

"This is making the state of Georgia proud," Robertson said. "In 12 years we have brought kids from a place where the sport didn’t exist before 1996 to where they are now."

House, a Gainesville native who began rowing after the 1996 games, finished first in the Men’s Senior 500-meter one-person kayak event with a time of 1:47.630, two seconds better than two-time Olympian Rami Zur, who defeated House in the 2007 World Championships.

"It’s a big win for me," House said. "I’ve never won this race before."

In order to secure a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team in Beijing this summer, House must defeat Zur again at the International Canoe Federation Flatwater World Cup this June in Hungary.

House has a second opportunity to earn an Olympic nomination today when he races in the Men’s Senior 1000-meter single kayak event.

Should he win the race, he will advance to the Continental Olympic Qualification event this May in Montreal. A win there would send him to Beijing.

"I feel more confident in my 1000 than in my 500," House said. "If I can win the 1000 in the U.S. I feel I can go to the Olympics."

Hornsby, an Atlanta native, finished first in the Men’s Senior 500-meter two-person kayak event. With the win, Hornsby advances to Continental Olympic Qualification.

"Tim had an equipment malfunction in another race so he was happy to win this one," Robertson said. "He was super fast off the line and had a commanding lead."

LCKC also had strong finishes in the Junior events, with Katelyn Dill and Chelsea Smith winning the Women’s 500-meter two-person kayak and Ben Hefner finishing second in the Men’s 500-meter one-person canoe. Hefner also joined John Blackburn to finish second in the 500-meter two-person canoe.

Although the Junior rowers are not eligible for the Olympic nominations, they qualify for the 2008 Pan American Championships.

The U.S. Olympic Trials continue tomorrow and Sunday, with LCKC rowers competing in every event.

Among these races is the Men’s 1000-meter two-person canoe race, where Gainesville natives Robert Finlayson and Alejandro Schwedhelm have a chance to qualify for Olympic nomination.

"I’m really looking forward to the 1000 races," Findlayson said. "I’ve been watching my teammates win, and it really pumps me up to see them winning."

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