It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
— Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859)
The opening of Charles Dickens’ book provides a great description for the 2017 Eastern Collegiate Regional Championship. So before we get to the amazing skiing, weather, and collegiate water ski environment we need to first address what can often lead quickly to the worst of times, injury.
… it was the worst of times
On Sunday October 1, 2017 at Jack Travers’ Sunset Lakes, Groveland, Florida Joshua Briant of Rollins College took a disastrous fall during the men’s jump event after hitting the side curtain. After being helicoptered to an Orlando hospital, Rollins Water Ski provided us with an update
Josh had dislocated his knee and broken his lower leg. His head and spine are fine. He will have surgery, but is standing by for now. He has been talking and does not seem as concussed anymore.
We want to thank the Clemson Water Ski Team for providing us with the initial information so that we could quickly release a statement, and Rollins Water Ski for their update on Josh’s status after he was taken to the Orlando hospital. The moments after the jump and our release about Josh’s injury are what help define our community as a whole. As Katie Horton from the Alabama Water Ski Team put it
Although it was hard watching Josh crash, the quiet moment the teams spent together making sure he was okay reminded me of why I love this sport. We are all a big family and even though we are on different teams we look out for each other. — Katie Horton, The University of Alabama Water Ski Team
Katie’s words were a foreshadowing of the response from our water ski community; within a day of our release and Rollins’ update and thanks to many across the globe sharing the sad news, over 30,000 people had seen the news with hundreds reacting and commenting to leave their kind words for Josh and his family as many keep them in their thoughts and prayers. I have no doubt that even more reached out to Josh and his family directly, because as Katie intimated, “we are all a big family.”
The NCWSA community and the greater water ski community as a whole look forward to Josh coming back stronger than ever.
It was the best of times …
The tournament kicked off with much buzz, as Florida Southern College and Rollins College had yet to ski a collegiate tournament in the 2017 Fall season due to their home tournament being cancelled thanks to Hurricane Irma. So as skiers descended on Jack Travers’ Sunset Lakes, there was fresh face newness that usually comes along with early season tournaments. Kelley Breeden of Florida Southern was among those fresh faces, as she skied in her first ever collegiate tournament. Her takeaway from the tournament where she tied for 5th in slalom by skiing to 1 buoy at 38′ off 34mph was that
[the tournament was] full of school spirit and an amazing showcase of the great community that water skiing and collegiate competitions are. — Kelley Breeden, Florida Southern College
Kelly and her team had a lot to cheer about as the tournament kicked off with slalom, the team’s best event. With most of the FSC team skiing into 38′ off or better, Samantha Dumala sets the standard high as she went out and tied her co-owned NCWSA slalom record with a score of 3 buoys at 39.5′ off 34mph. Sam previously tied what was then only Manon Costard’s record in 2015 while also skiing at Sunset Lakes, she must really love this site! With Sam leading the way in women’s slalom, fellow Florida Southern skier and 2016 NCWSA women’s slalom champion Allie Nicholson took second followed by Abbi Grathwold from The University of Alabama in third. On the women’s side, FSC narrowly edged Alabama by a 40pts to take the team women’s slalom title, with Rollins College rounding out the top three.
The FSC team was not the only hot slalom skiing team at Eastern Regionals, Rollins College was blazing its own path in its first tournament of the year. With Cole McCormick of FSC taking first in men’s slalom, Dorien Llewellyn of Rollins and Joshua Briant of Rollins took second and third, all three skiers getting into 39.5′ off! In fact, the Rollins’ men went toe to toe with their Florida Southern brethren, and the two teams ended up tying for 1st in the men’s slalom event with Alabama 130 points further back in third.
After one event, Florida Southern lead the way followed by Alabama in second and Rollins in third.
Rollins College was comfortable with its third place spot after one event, because they trailed FSC by only 200 points and next up was Rollins’ best event: trick. The Rollins College Water Ski Team features some amazing trick skiers, Erika Lang is the NCWSA record holder in women’s tricks, Natalia Cuglievan is the 2016 Nationals champion in women’s tricks, and Joshua Briant is the 2016 Nationals champion and 2016 World Collegiate gold medalist in men’s tricks. Rollins held strong in its best event with its women taking the top three spots in the women’s trick event; Erika Lang (5,870) took first followed by Natalia Cuglievan (4,200) and Jenna Morgan (2,470). Lexi Nate from Florida Southern was skiing in her first ever collegiate tournament, and tricked her way to 12th with a run score of 1,140. Lexi let us know that her
first collegiate tournament was one of the most fun experiences I could have asked for; the atmosphere was so energetic and high spirited! — Lexi Nate, Florida Southern College
In the women’s event Rollins took top honors, followed by the University of Alabama, and Florida Southern College.
On the men’s side Rollins looked to continue its trick skiing dominance. Dorien Llewellyn lead the way with 5,970 points followed by teammate Rafael De Osma with 4,770 points, and Florida Southern’s Aris Techoueyres in third with 4,330 points. 2016 Nationals champion Josh Briant took an early fall in his run, making it possible for other teams to upset Rollins’ trick ski dominance. The University of Alabama took the queue by taking 4th and 5th in the men’s event (Santiago Varas and Sam Greenwood), and stacked their other two scores in the top ten. Stacking their men’s team in the top ten allowed the University of Alabama to edge out Rollins for first in the men’s trick event by 5 points, with Florida Southern a close third only 70 points out of first!
After two events, Rollins College had bounced back and took the lead, followed by Alabama in second and Florida Southern in third.
After dominating its previous competitions, Alabama found itself in a new position heading into jump day, it was looking up in the standings at someone else being the tournament leader. The Tide were in a good spot though, trailing by only 105 points with men’s and women’s jump remaining.
The women flew first, and the Alabama women love to hit big red and soar! However, newcomer Valentina Gonzalez from Florida Southern College stole the show in her debut collegiate tournament leaping to first with a jump of 130 feet that beat out second place jumper Mariah Fields of Alabama by 0.20 meters! Abbi Grathwohl of Alabama took third with a jump of 120 feet. Alabama stacked all 5 of its women’s jumpers in the top ten with freshman Katie Horton jumping 91 feet to take tenth. Stacking the scores proved pivotal again, as it gave the Alabama women the event win over Florida Southern College by 80 points, with Rollins coming in third 170 points back from Alabama.
The point separation from Rollins helped Alabama claim the lead going into the men’s jump event, and Florida Southern scratched closer to the now second place Rollins College. Alabama men knew they needed to #sendit, as Rollins College has many great flyers and Rollins was still close on the team’s heels. Alabama’s dual men’s team freshmen sensations Quinn Haines and Benjamin Leutz jumped 168 feet (4th) and 166 feet (5th) to set the stage for Alabama’s best jumpers. Santiago and Sam took advantage as Santiago Varas jumped 172 feet to take second, and Samuel Greenwood bested him by 2 feet for a jump of 174 feet to take first. Dorien Llewellyn of Rollins College split the Alabama boys by jumping 171 feet and taking 3rd in men’s jump. Quinn Haines who placed 4th noted after the tournament that
[the tournament was] totally worth the 10 hour drive, [I] had a lot of fun with a lot of great people. — Quinn Haines, The University of Alabama
With The University of Alabama taking 4 of the top 5 men’s jump spots, they took the top men’s jump team placement with Rollins taking second 220 point behind Alabama, and Florida Southern took third.
On to the Connelly Skis 2017 NCWSA Nationals!
The tournament was amazing, everyone’s sentiment seemed to be summed up pretty well by The University of Alabama’s Samuel Greenwood
[the tournament was] incredible, as always, down in Florida! lit — Sam Greenwood, The University of Alabama
Winning the jump event by solid margins, The University of Alabama pulled ahead in the tournament and took first place to win the 2017 Eastern Regional Championship and secure a Division 1 seeding at the 2017 Connelly Skis 2017 NCWSA Nationals. Here is how the rest of the team standings played out
- University of Alabama
- Rollins College
- Florida Southern College
- Clemson University
- Auburn University
- University of Georgia
- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The full scorebook for the tournament can be found on USA Water Ski’s website.
The top 5 teams from the Eastern Regional Championships advance to Nationals, congrats to those teams. The sixth and seventh place teams move into the NCWSA Wildcard tournament that selects the final 3 teams from across the nation for the Connelly Skis 2017 NCWSA Nationals via a live webcast and simulated tournament next Monday October 9, 2017.