Wednesday November 25th, 2015 3:17AM

LCKC hoping to show off venue, abilities to nation this weekend

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
GAINESVILLE -- The Lanier Canoe/Kayak Club is back on the rise.<br /> <br /> And this weekend LCKC members want the rest of the nation to take notice, as they gun for glory in the 2014 USA Canoe/Kayak Sprint National Championships at the Lake Lanier Olympic Venue at Clark's Bridge in Gainesville.<br /> <br /> "This club is getting bigger and better every year; we're growing for sure," said club member and canoe competitor Dustin Grattan, 16. "We've gotten very strong as a club."<br /> <br /> The LCKC hopes to flex its muscles beginning on Thursday in the three-day long competition -- and plenty of that strength will come from numbers.<br /> <br /> "We've got 78 athletes competing this weekend; I think that's 30 more than the next biggest team," said club member and kayak competitor Kota Teasley, 14.<br /> <br /> Make no mistake, there is also plenty of quality amongst the LCKC's quantity, but its swelling ranks are particular cause for optimism for a club looking to knock off two-time defending champ Gig Harbor (Wash.).<br /> <br /> "We've got more members than at this time last year, and that quantity will be a big help this weekend," LCKC coach and Olympic venue manager Morgan House said. "We've got a really big group of bantams -- paddlers age 14 and under. I think we've got 40 entries in that group, and that's nice to see. We've also got plenty of seniors and masters competitors too. We've even got an 83-year-old that will be paddling for us this weekend."<br /> <br /> As someone who has been around LCKC since his own bantam days, House, a former US National Team sprint kayak competitor, says his club is verging on something big -- not just this weekend but beyond.<br /> <br /> "We have a lot of really good paddlers right now, and we have a big group of youth paddlers that have serious chances to make it to junior worlds (championships) and beyond," House said. "And we've had paddlers training really hard for the past year. I think we're fully prepared."<br /> <br /> House certainly knows what it takes to win at the highest levels of sprint canoe/kayak. The Gainesville native competed in senior and junior world championships, helped the LCKC win past national titles -- the club is gunning for its 11th this weekend -- and missed out on competing in the Olympics by the narrowest of margins. <br /> <br /> For current LCKC paddlers, House represents a treasure trove of knowledge, as well as serving as a tangible role model.<br /> <br /> "He knows so much about what he's doing and what we're doing," LCKC member and kayak competitor Daniel Hicks, 14, said. <br /> <br /> "He's taught us so much and is also really getting the word out about our sport," said LCKC member and kayak competitor Dillon Kimsey, 16.<br /> <br /> Area paddlers hope that success this weekend will only continue to grow the sport -- but they also know that that success will not come easy.<br /> <br /> "The difference at last year's nationals came down to four one-hundredths of a second sometimes," said LCKC member and kayak competitor Josh Burchardt, 14. "And it's going to be close again this weekend."<br /> <br /> With that in mind, LCKC members are excited to host the event at the Olympic Venue -- which has a reputation as one of the best flat-water sites in the world.<br /> <br /> "This course still has records from the 1996 Olympics that stand as records today," House said. "It's a very fast course, and we're making a lot of improvements to everything around it. We're very fortunate to be able to paddle this course."<br /> <br /> Last year's nationals in Oklahoma only made LCKC members appreciate their own venue that much more.<br /> <br /> "Here if there's wind it affects everyone; at Oklahoma if there was wind, one lane would be getting ripped with waves and the far lane would be completely calm -- and that happened a lot," said LCKC member and canoe competitor Riley Brunner, 16. "It was basically paddling in a drainage ditch."<br /> <br /> That said, the LCKC's members would not trade the experiences of last year's competition, which charged area paddlers to train even harder for this year.<br /> <br /> "We also know now not to let the conditions affect our mental state," said LCKC member and kayak competitor Gracyn Potter, 14. "We'll be much better prepared this time around."<br /> <br /> "We're going to find out where we are in the nation," Kimsey said.
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