Saturday February 13th, 2016 2:28PM

Rich legacy lives on with Clarks Bridge Olympic Center

By Luke Story
GAINESVILLE - The legacy of the Clarks Bridge Olympic venue is alive and well.

That testament was glorified over the Memorial Day Weekend when over 50 institutions and 1,600 athletes competed at the venue for the fourth straight year in the American Collegiate Rowing Association (ARCA) National Championship Regatta.

Editor's Note: For detailed event-by-event results please click the following link.

Given the sensation of excitement and energy surrounding the Clarks Bridge Olympic Center over the weekend, Hall County and northeast Georgia can take an extraordinary amount of pride in being able to offer a venue that is unsurpassed by other venues.

"The Lake Lanier Olympic Venue is one of the best venues in the world for rowing and canoe/kayak events alike," said Morgan House, Manager of the the Lake Lanier Olympic Venue. "It is the most fair in terms of wind conditions and the facility itself is world class thanks to those who made the 1996 Olympics and 2003 world championships possible."

Having a venue like the Clarks Bridge Olympic Center provides a dynamic community of rowers and non-rowers a source of great joy.

"It's tremendously exciting to see top talent come and put the venue to great use. When you look at Clarks Bridge Olympic Center today and you see all these tents, all these trailers and all the elite rowers coming to use the park and the water it is truly exciting," said Lake Lanier Rowing Club Board Member Duane Schlereth.

Visitors, spectators and competitors to the venue all share the same level of gratitude for those that have impacted the lasting legacy of the venue and extended the usefulness of the venue for events like the Championship regatta.

"Having events like ACRA really helps to confirm that our venue is the best," House said. "Many of these types of events could choose to go someplace else but because our facility and the selfless work of countless volunteers, local, national, and international events continue to choose the Lake Lanier Olympic Venue as the site of their event."

Rowers competing over the weekend honor the fact that they get to compete at what they consider one of the most prestigious venues around.

"Being able to compete at the venue holds a huge amount of value. The whole history of the venue is amazing," Virginia Crew member Chris Keeling said. "Coming to this venue and competing in this race is what we talk about as a team all year long."

Competing at a venue where years prior Olympic athletes were rowing for international acclaim is a surreal experience to the amateurs that use the facilities these days.

"Just to think that when we load in the boathouse that nearly 20 years ago someone in the Olympics was doing the same thing at the same place, is just so cool," Keeling said.

"Being able to row on the these waters at this venue, going nine boats wide against teams from all over the United States is so exhilarating," said a coed crew from the University of Vermont.

Perhaps the most moving aspect of the venue is the support it receives from the local community.

"I am ecstatic about the amount of support coming from Hall County and Gainesville City. Both governments see and believe in the Venue which will only lead to bigger and better things to come," House said. "I would encourage anyone who has never been to the venue to come out and try rowing or canoe/kayak.

"Both the Lake Lanier Rowing Club and the Lanier Canoe Kayak Club offer classes on how to learn how to row or paddle. These two clubs offer life changing programs that stem from the 1996 Olympics that happened almost 20 years ago."

A general consensus prevails among all those that visit the Clarks Bridge Olympic Venue.

"As a rower to come through the last 500 meters, hearing the roar of the crowd it amps everybody up, this venue simply can't be beat," said the coed Vermont crew. "The Clarks Bridge venue is a unique reminder that we are all part of something really big."
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