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The Final Meltdown

There are few things I love more in life than waterskiing. There is nothing I would rather be doing, and the fact that it is already October means only one thing: the season is almost over. In fact, for the U of M Waterski team our tournament season ended three weeks ago tomorrow.
Let me take you back to our fateful weekend. . .

For those of you readers who don't know, a collegiate waterski tournament consists of three events: slalom, trick, and jump. Each team sends their 5 best members in each event to ski. My event is slalom - if you are wondering what I mean by slalom, you should enter "Collegiate waterski national championships" into youtube and select men's or women's slalom to watch, it's really entertaining.

Anyway, I'll do my best to explain some things about slalom to clarify for you all. Slalom scores are judged by how many buoys a skier can get while skiing through the slalom course. The course consists of the entrance gates, 6 buoys, and the end gates. What sets one skier apart from another is how fast they can go, and the length of rope they can ski on. For example, standard tournament speed is 36mph, and standard rope length is "15-off" which means 15 feet off of the full length 75 foot rope (i.e. 60 feet). Anyway, for each successful pass through the course, the rope is shortened to increase difficulty. The rope lengths go from 15-off, 22-off, 28-off, 32-off, 35-off, 38-off, 39.5-off, 41-off, and the world record 43-off. In tournaments it is necessary to run each pass successfully in order to earn another pass. The first pass is the most important because if you do not run your opener, than you get considerably less points than if you make it (the scoring is confusing, so I won't get into that).

SO back to the tournament. My teammates and I had driven 8 hours to Wilmington, Illinois for the Great Plains Conference Championship, and we were anticipating a close weekend. That is, we originally were not expected to make the regional tournament, which consists of the top 9 teams from our conference (among teams from other conferences). We arrived at the lake tired and stiff from our long drive, but we were ready. The moonlight reflected off the lake just enough to illuminate the course. I immediately turned to my two roommates/teammates and said, "we've gotta own that tomorrow," and they agreed.

The next morning was an early one, men's slalom began at 7:30AM and the wait for my turn began. Everything I had worked for all summer, all of my hours of skiing came down to my performance at this tournament. As my turn neared I apprehensively but confidently grabbed my equipment and headed down to the dock. The wait was almost unbearable from that point on. With only a few skiers left before me, the butterflies in my stomach felt like eagles, but I remained calm.

Finally, it was my turn. I put on my ski and dipped into the water. I took the handle and shouted my name, school, speed and rope length to the driver. He repeated all of my information into the walkie-talkie and asked if I was ready, and I nodded. Next thing I knew I was up and ready to cut through the gates. My mind was racing as I cut around the first buoy and onto the second. Second turn, a little late, but a good cut and I was still early for buoy number 3. Another decent turn and I was onto 4. A great turn around 4 and I was feeling great, and even thinking ahead to my second pass.

This was a mistake. I went into 5 ball with too much speed and was what felt like hours late on the turn. I could hear my teammates shouts echoing in the air, "PULL!" And I did, I pulled with everything I had to make it to 6 ball. I made it to the last ball and extended my body as far as I could to get my ski all the way around it. This was a success, and I made it around the buoy, but the extreme shift in my weight caused me to lose balance. I fought and struggled as hard as I could to make it the few feet back to the gate, but I couldn't do it. I fell and my dreams of regionals fell with me and sank into that lake in Illinois.

As it turns out, if our team had skied adequately - that is, as well as we had the weekend before - we would have easily made it to regionals. However, due to miscues, flukes, and questionable judges scores, we finished 10th. As mentioned before, we needed 9th, and just like that, our season was over. It was a more than depressing end to a great season. Since this point I have realized that the beauty of the sport is that I get to train and ski all of next summer and hope for an even better performance next year. Redemption is on its way!

I think this is the longest entry of all time, but I had fun writing it nonetheless. If you are have questions or are interested please comment and I'll get back to you.

Peace love, and don't get too far ahead of yourself,
Dave

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