Like so many kids, Morgan House once watched the Olympics and promised himself that he’d one day represent the United States.
Unlike most kids, he’s darn near close to doing it.
House, 22, just missed out on the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and now has his sites set on paddling for the U.S. as a member of the 2012 sprint kayak team in London.
And now, the man who says he spent more time on the water than he did at Gainesville High as a youth, is being recognized as one of the top-10 high school athletes to come out of northeast Georgia in the past 10 years, as House is honored as a member of the Northeast Georgia Sports Hall of Fame’s Elite 10 list.
While House didn’t get a chance to represent his school at a state level — like most of the other athletes in the Elite 10 — if he had, it’s certain Gainesville would have won a state title. As it was, he won numerous titles for himself and the Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club that grew from the legacy of the 1996 Olympics — which left one of the world’s premier paddling/rowing facilities in its wake on Clark’s Bridge Road.
"The Olympics really inspired me," said House. "It left behind the best boathouse in the world, and I was there after school every day."
All the hard work began to pay off early, as House, who began paddling at age 8, was competing for world titles by age 18, finishing fifth overall in the junior world sprint kayaking championships in 2005.
"That was the best result ever for a U.S. junior paddler," House said. "That’s really a highlight for me in my career."
It probably won’t be the last.
House has his goals set on being No. 1 at the senior level and on the world’s biggest sporting stage.
"I hope to keep progressing. I want to be top five in the world by next year, top three in 2011 and No. 1 by 2012," said House, referring to the London Olympics.
House hopes to begin that surge this August at the World Championships in Halifax, Canada, where he has set a goal of a top-nine finish.
"I’m just working on improving my speed, power and fitness right now," said House, who has spent the past three-and-a-half years training in San Diego and had plans to train in Australia starting in January. "I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in. I’m training three-four times a day."
House doesn’t have to look far for motivation. Last summer he missed making the U.S. Olympic team by just over a second at the ICF Flatwater World Cup Regatta in Szeged, Hungary, falling to U.S. paddler Rami Zur.
"It was a big disappointment," said House. "I went into that believing I’d be in the Olympics. I knew I’d given it everything I had, but I was pretty upset. But I also learned you can’t get too down or take anything for granted."
Since taking up the sport as a youngster, House has done anything but take paddling lightly — despite his reason for getting into the sport: "I wasn’t any good at anything else."
The Northeast Georgia Sports Hall of Fame is located in the Northeast Georgia History Center on the campus of Brenau University.
The History Center will recognize athletic excellence at a luncheon 11:30 a.m., Aug. 29, at the Georgia Mountains Center in downtown Gainesville. Special guest speaker Damon Evans, Athletics Director for the University of Georgia, will help honor 15 Northeast Georgia Athletes and one highly successful team. There will be five retired athletes inducted into the Northeast Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. An additional "Elite 10" athletes, some of Northeast Georgia’s best athletes of the last 10 years, will also be honored.
Table sponsorships are available for $350, and table sponsors may choose to have their table host one of the athletes to be recognized on a first-come, first-served basis. A limited number of individual tickets are available for $25. Call the History Center at 770-297-5900 to make your reservations.