Zachary Lokken of the United States maneuvers near the bottom of the course on Thursday during one of his runs in the Menís Junior canoe single division at the Junior & U23 Canoe Slalom World Championships at Whitewater Park in Wausau. Lokken sits in first place heading into todayís semifinal competition. / Dan Young/For Wisconsinoutdoorfun.com
Zach Lokken knew he was capable of a fast time in qualifying for the Men's Junior canoe single at the 2012 International Canoe Federation Junior & U23 Canoe Slalom World Championships.
Penalties ruined his first run at the Wausau Whitewater Park on Thursday, but he more than made up for it on his second run, catapulting himself from 30th to first place with a flawless run.
"I knew, no matter what, I was going to make it, so that run I just made sure I was in the the right line and it really worked out," said Lokken, who completed the course in 115.22 seconds. "It was joy (when I finished). I honestly didn't know I was going to get that time, and when I saw it, I was like, 'Wow.' I am really happy."
It was also a good day for United States Olympic team members Casey Eichfeld and Caroline Queen. Eichfeld is racing in the Men's U23 canoe single, while Queen is in the Women's U23 kayak single, and both faced little trouble in moving on to the semifinals.
The top 30 in each event qualified for today's semifinals on the 250-meter course. The top 10 will then move on to the finals Saturday and Sunday.
"The goal was to qualify, and I accomplished that," said Eichfeld, who is seeded 12th. "It was a good day. Basically, what I'm trying to do is mimic everything I plan to do during the Olympics. Just to work out the kinks and know what we want to do and how we are going to do it."
Queen is also seeded 12th for the semifinals.
Lokken is riding a fast wave into the semis, and hopes his run is something that makes his competition think twice.
"It gives me a lot of confidence for (today) knowing that I can be the top guy," he said.
Thursday's top qualifiers were: Katerina Kudejova of the Czech Republic (Women's U23 kayak single), Slovakia's Jure Lenarcic (Men's U23 canoe single) and Australia's Jessica Fox -- an Olympian -- in the Women's Junior kayak single.
Poised for podium?
Two years ago, Michal Smolen took fourth at the junior world championships in the Men's kayak single.
Now, the Poland native who trains out of Charlotte, N.C., is hoping for a better finish.
He has the top seed entering today's semifinals after a flawless second run put him in the first spot. He was in sixth place after his first run, which included two penalties.
"I'm trying to keep (being in first) out of my head," he said Wednesday after his qualifying runs. "It's important for me to think about doing things that I do my way and trying to do the best I can."
Stevens Point native Hailey Thompson qualified to be in the Women's Junior canoe single competition this week, but her plans were changed -- for a good reason.
Thompson was accepted to join the United States Coast Guard, and they had basic training this week, which derailed the local paddler's hopes of adding more accolades to her already stacked resume of high finishes in world competitions.
Ready for more
Michael Rudnitsky had a busy opening day Wednesday, and is hoping today can be even better in the semifinals.
Rudnitsky qualified 30th for the semifinals in the Men's Junior kayak single, and also teamed with Elliot Bertrand to qualify 17th in the Junior canoe double.
"I'm pretty satisfied, but I think we could have done better," Bertrand said Wednesday. "We're going to the semifinals, and that gives us another shot. I'm pretty stoked to be here."
Rudnitsky felt the same way, and will have as much work today with just two runs instead of four. The semifinals only allow one run, with the top 10 competitors advancing to Saturday's finals.
"It was a pretty tough day with being in two categories," Rudnitsky said. "I hope to perform better in the upcoming races."