USA Canoe/Kayak Sprint National Championships
When: July 31-Aug. 2
Where: Lake Lanier Olympic Venue
USA Canoe/Kayak Masters National Championships
When: Aug. 3
Where: Lake Lanier Olympic Venue
Five competitors from the Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club headed to the Lake Placid International Regatta earlier this month in New York for the competition and experience.
While they certainly had plenty of both, they also emerged with numerous medals.
“I surprised myself when I was up there,” said Gainesville 14-year-old Clay Baker, who emerged with top-three finishes in four of his five events.
The LCKC paddlers got to meet their fellow competitors from Canada and Puerto Rico. Kota Teasley, a 14-year-old from Gainesville, actually earned her silver medal in a four-person kayak 500-meter race with three racers from Nova Scotia as her teammates.
Teasley enjoyed getting to meet people from different places and also learned from them.
“They might be better in different areas,” Teasley said. “And they can give you advice. We can bring that back to our team.”
With four of the five LCKC representatives being 14-year-olds, they were on the low end age-wise as they competed in under-16 races.
“It was a big challenge,” said Owen Farley-Klacik, a 14-year-old from Gainesville who also medaled in four of his five events. “There were a lot of bigger and stronger guys. We surprised a lot of people.”
Baker and Farley-Klacik teamed up for a victory in the two-person kayak 1,000-meter race and a silver medal in the two-person kayak 200 meters, as well as bronze in the 4-person kayak 1,000 meters. Farley-Klacik (1-person kayak 1,000 meters) and Baker (1-person kayak 200 meters) each added an individual third-place finish. The duo beat multiple Team USA paddlers.
“I was extremely impressed,” said Morgan House, High Performance 1 coach for LCKC. “They really stepped up to the plate, raced hard. I think they did better than they expected they would. I knew they would do a good job.”
Farran Smith, a 14-year-old from Gainesville who has spent the summer training with some members of Team USA’s junior national team in San Diego, won a pair of events in 1-person kayak: 200 meters and 500 meters in the under-16 age category. She also was part of the silver-medal 4-person kayak 500 meters and bronze-medal 2-person kayak 200 meters groups, both of which were in the under-18 division.
Smith is in Hungary right now competing for the U.S. team at the junior world championships.
Riley Brunner, a 16-year-old from Dahlonega, won a pair of races in U16 (1-person canoe 200 and 1,000) and also earned other high finishes. Brunner is in Team USA’s Olympic Hopes group.
The Lake Placid International Regatta served as a chance for the LCKC paddlers to get a good feel for their competition ahead of the July 31-Aug. 2 Sprint National Championships on Lake Lanier. They also got to see some of the sites in Lake Placid, which hosted the 1980 Winter Olympics.
“It was a great experience to race in a different place,” Farley-Klacik said.
Both Teasley and Farley-Klacik noted the clearness of the water on Lake Placid. Teasley said side winds were strong there, a unique challenge compared with usual headwinds and tailwinds.
Another major difference, according to Baker, was the low humidity as temperatures were in the 70s. He joked that he’s usually about to pass out with the humidity in Georgia.
“Up there, it felt nice,” Baker said.
Following the strong performance of all five from LCKC in New York, the Sprint National Championships are right around the corner.
“They’re really pumped up and ready to race,” House said.