Water-Ski Team To Get a Taste of Saltwater
FSC's water-ski team heads to the 30th annual Collegiate Water Ski National Championships near Phoenix.
Team coach, Roger Skalko.
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Coach Roger Skalko, 10 team members, and the team captain will travel to the 30th annual Collegiate Water Ski National Championships from Oct. 16-18 at Firebird Lake in Maricopa, Ariz. The competition combines the scores of all 10 skiers in three categories: slalom, jump, and trick skiing.
Conversations have turned a bit salty in the boathouse. Florida Southern’s water-ski team is headed to the 30th annual Collegiate Water Ski National Championships near Phoenix, where the team will compete on a saltwater lake that is saltier than the Atlantic Ocean.
“Personally, I’ve never even skied on saltwater,” says Roger Skalko, in his second year as coach. Skalko has been skiing most of his life and still competes in USA Water Ski events.
FSC, built on the shores of Lake Hollingsworth, has quite a history of water-skiing. The College has the oldest collegiate water-ski team in the country, with more than 60 years of history. There are now more than 90 collegiate teams nationwide, but only two in Florida. (The other is at Rollins College.)
Lake Hollingsworth, of course, is filled with freshwater. Because saltwater is denser, skis don’t settle into the water as much, and so it will feel faster to the skier. Similarly, chilly water is denser than warm water, so team members from cooler climes are hopeful the experience will feel more like the lakes “back home” than the 80-ish Lake Hollingsworth.
Skalko, 10 team members, and the team captain will travel to the competition, Oct. 16-18 at Firebird Lake in Maricopa, Ariz. The team competition will combine the scores of all 10 skiers in three categories: slalom, jump, and trick skiing.
Skalko is excited for his team. “We have a very strong team, especially the women’s team,” he says, “and if everyone skis well, they have a shot at winning the whole thing.”
But the saltwater factor is an unknown. “Especially with the trick skis,” Skalko says, “they could be really slippery. But you don’t know. It might work to their advantage.”
In September, FSC routed the competition at the East Regional meet, which includes teams from Maine to Florida. The top three finishers – FSC, Alabama and Clemson – will compete in Division I at the national meet.
Water-skiing is considered a “club” sport rather than an NCAA-sanctioned sport, and so the best college teams usually include at least a few professionals. FSC has several professional international skiers, including Clementine Lucine, a French woman who’s ranked as the top female skier in the world and who recently broke a world record in trick skiing; Marion Mathieu, also French; Matteo D’Alberto, an Italian graduate student; and Kevin Jack, a French Canadian.
FSC’s team is strong and talented, Skalko says, but they have serious competition. The University of Louisiana-Monroe has won 20 of the 29 national championships, including the past two. And Arizona State University, which is host to this year’s tournament, has “undoubtedly been practicing on the saltwater lake, which gives them an edge over the rest of us,” Skalko says.