GVSU overcomes off-shore obstacles at Waterski Nationals
After a tumultuous trip down to Louisiana last week, the Grand Valley State University waterski club arrived in Zachary, La. and put up a strong performance against some the country’s best amateur skiers at the national tournament.
The team set out Oct. 16 at 9 p.m. and intended to drive the 17 hours straight through, but they encountered some bumps along the way.
As a club sport, the students had to come up with the money for the trip themselves. The students started with three of their own vehicles and one GVSU van. Two of the student vehicles got flat tires, and due to time, one had to be left and later towed to be fixed so the students could pick it up on the trip back up.
“So at this point we had to fit five more people into three cars which were already full,” said member Mary Anolick. The team arrived in Zachary, just outside of Baton Rouge, at 6 p.m. on Oct 17. Anolick said the sleep-deprived team was very happy to have made it to the event.
Having missed out on nationals last year, GVSU was offered a spot to compete at the tournament after a team dropped out of the competition. Jathan Koetje, an officer with the ski team, said that GVSU was rewarded for its strong showing last year, and the fact they compete in an extremely difficult division.
“People know that we were deserving because we were scoring just as well as the other teams in our region,” Koetje said. ”But you can only take two teams, so we missed out again.” Koetje said they were surprised when they got a call a week before the tournament asking them to participate. “We were really excited to get the call about nationals, because we really wanted it to be a senior send-off for all of the hard work put in over the years,” Koetje said.
The first day was a rough for the Laker women as they struggled landing jumps and getting back into form. At the first event, only one of the GVSU women landed her jumps.
“We face schools that have access to water all year round,” said member Julie Collins. “We didn’t do so well our first day, but it came together once we settled in.”
After finding their rhythm, the Lakers ended up having to play catch-up all weekend.
“We kind of put ourselves in a hole, but we did everything we could to get back in it and put up a good performance for GVSU,” Koetje said.
Freshman Alison Saunders led the comeback with a top-five finish individually, while leading the team to a fourth-place finish.
“No one had really ever heard of us,” Koetje said. “Coming from Michigan, not having a spot initially, I guess you could say the odds weren’t in our favor.”
The team placed fourth overall and gained some respect from the waterski community while representing GVSU at the highest level.
“We had a great time down there placing as well as we did,” Anolick said.
Now, they just had to go pick up that broken down car.