By Craig Bohnert | April 29, 2016, 6:09 p.m. (ET)
(L-R) Kaitlyn McElroy and Maggie Hogan compete in the women's kayak 500-meter final at the 2012 U.S. National Team Trials at the Boathouse District on the Oklahoma River on April 21, 2012 in Oklahoma City.


Seven canoeists and kayakers took a step closer to earning a spot on the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team for canoe and kayak sprint in the first day of racing at the 2016 USA Canoe/Kayak Sprint National Team Trials on Lake Lanier outside of Gainesville, Georgia.

Winning their respective finals, these athletes now must qualify their boats for quota spots in each event in order to earn a ticket to their first Olympic Games. Their only opportunity to do so will be the 2016 Pan American Championships, May 19-20, at the Lake Lanier venue, site of the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games flatwater sprint competition. They will attempt to improve upon 2012, when only two U.S. boats raced in London.

Chris Miller and Ian Ross led the way Friday, each earning a pair of victories. Miller, a member of the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games team, took first in the men’s single kayak (K1) 1,000-meter event with a time of 3:48.363, nearly six seconds ahead of his nearest competitor.

Miller returned to the waters of Lake Lanier to join doubles partner Stanton Collins for the win in the men’s double kayak (K2) 1,000-meter, covering the course in 3:31.644. Miller and Collins have been represented the United States in kayak doubles for several years, with their top finish coming at the 2014 Pan American Championships, where they took gold in the K2 500-meter, an event they will race Saturday as the team trials continue. They finished seventh in the K2 1,000 at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games.

Ross won the men’s single canoe (C1) 1,000 with a time of 4:11.151, just 0.2 ahead of Justin Staubach. Ross then joined his younger brother Gavin for the win in the doubles canoe at 1,000 meters in a time of 4:08.782. The brothers competed on the 2015 world cup circuit, posting a top finish of fifth in the C2 200-meter at the first stop. The elder Ross has been the top U.S. canoeist for several years, winning three national championships in 2013. He won the C1 1,000 event at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials but was unable to qualify the boat to compete in London.

Maggie Hogan won women’s K1 500 with a time of 2:00.413, more than a second ahead of doubles partner Kaitlyn McElroy, who crossed in 2:02.149. Hogan won bronze in the women’s K1 1,000, a non-Olympic event, at the 2015 world championships. In doubles with McElroy, she has claimed a silver and bronze on the world cup circuit in 2012 and 2013 each, all at 1,000 meters. A member of the U.S. national team since 2005, she went to the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games as a training partner.

Farran Smith and Samantha Barlow won the opportunity to qualify in the women’s K2 500 with a time of 1:54.988, 1.028 ahead of Emily Wright and Ariel Farrar-Wellman. The two are breaking into the senior ranks for the first time after enjoying success at the junior level and were part of the 2015 junior training squad. Barlow, the daughter of two-time Olympic kayaker Chris Barlow, won the junior women’s K1 200 and 500 at last year’s team trials.

Five of the seven athletes who earned their way onto the U.S. national team were racing on their home club’s waters. Miller, Collins, Smith and the Ross brothers are affiliated with the Lanier Canoe/Kayak Club, which formed as part of the legacy of the Atlanta Olympic Games.

The national team trials conclude Saturday at Lake Lanier.