As I sit here writing this recap of Midwest Winter Conference, I am halfway through a 13-hour car ride with a group of skiers from the Nebraska Water Ski Team. Teams from Nebraska, University of Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri State and Iowa all had lengthy car rides, but it was a no-brainer for these teams to travel to Midwest Winter Conference hosted in Columbus, Ohio, by The Ohio State University. Team Midwest hosts a winter conference unlike any other region in collegiate water skiing, for reference see our 20 Reasons Why Winter Conference is Amazing from last Friday. This year was no different, the pros, banquet, and fun festivities were incredible!
Each year, team captains kick off the conference with an early morning captains meeting at the conference site. This year’s meeting’s main focus was discussing the mini course scoring for tournaments, ways to maintain tournament sites and elections for the executive board and committees. There were quite a few new faces added to the executive board and committees this year, so you can look forward to reading more about each member in the future!
By the time the meeting concludes, the rest of the skiers are making their way through registration and headed to the auditorium for lunch and introductions by the Master of Ceremonies. This year’s Master of Ceremonies was none other than former Team Midwest Dad, Jon Bice. He had the pleasure of introducing the three pros who would be speaking during the breakout sessions. This year’s pros were Zack Worden, Adam Pickos, and K.C. Wilson. You can read more about this year’s pros in Kathleen Nolan’s “Meet the Pros” article, which was published just prior to Winter Conference XX.
There were four rounds of breakout sessions this year: slalom, trick, jump and off the water. The first three sessions were split up into beginner, intermediate and advanced rooms so skiers were able to learn information best suited for their experience level. The off the water session had rooms to do with team building and fundraising, off the water training, and officiating. Most pros come to these breakout sessions ready to talk all about water skiing, but it takes one brave skier to ask Adam Pickos if he’s single, and all bets are off for the rest of the day. The sessions are a great mix of talking about skiing and joking around with the pros and other skiers.
Once the breakout sessions ended, the skiers returned to the Embassy Suites to catch a quick nap (if they didn’t catch one during a breakout session) and get dressed up for the favorite part of the weekend—the banquet. This year the banquet was held right at the hotel, so skiers were able to get dressed up and head to the banquet hall to socialize and take pictures with ski friends in front of the Team Midwest backdrop.
Under the direction of Jon Bice, skiers found their way to their tables, the banquet staff served supper, and the raffle began. This year’s raffle prizes were unlike any most skiers had seen before at Winter Conference. The Ohio State University and Team Midwest did a great job of finding about 25 items to raffle off. Some of the items skiers were most excited about were: skis, ropes, handles and more from Spray it Forward, 10 pairs of gloves from HO Ski, vests and shirts from Dolphin Wetsuits, wet suits from O’Neil, and so much more.
After supper and the raffle comes the awards ceremony. At this point, the first qualifiers for the Midwest All-Stars Team is announced and the winners of the Ski Ammys (Team Midwest’s yearly awards). In January, skiers in Team Midwest are given the opportunity to nominate peers who they believe best describes the criteria for each Ski Ammy. Jon Bice called each winner up on stage and presented with an awesome pink Team Midwest Fin Firkin.
The winners of the Ski Ammys are:
- Male Rookie of the Year – Colin Laubenthal (The Ohio State University)
- Female Rookie of the Year – Hope Lamonica (University of Iowa)
- Most Improved Skier – Matt Lewandowski (University of Nebraska-Lincoln)
- Most Outstanding Senior Female – Riley Daulton (The Ohio State University)
- Most Outstanding Senior Male – Dylan Brittain (University of Kansas)
- Hardest Worker Award – Ben Brannan (The Ohio State University)
- Happy Award: Most Outstanding Alumni – Michael Newth (Kansas State University)
- Most Consistent Skier – Erin Vespestad (Iowa State University)
- Kiedrowski Award: Most Supportive Skier – Sam Reifsteck (The Ohio State University)
- Most Likely to Hit the Side Curtain – Landon Smith (University of Iowa)
- Most Likely to Go Pro – Riley Daulton (The Ohio State University)
- Best Team Captain – Kristen Dammeyer (The Ohio State University)
- Most Valuable Male Skier – Dylan Brittain (University of Kansas)
- Most Valuable Female Skier – Riley Daulton (The Ohio State University)
- Jeff Surdej Award – Michael Newth (Kansas State University)
- Awarded to a regional board member by the Midwest Chair
- Team of the Year – The Ohio State University
Most years after the last award is given, the skiers would head to the dance floor and roam around the banquet hall. However, Emily Dammeyer pulled off perhaps the best secret Facebook group of all time and presented a scrapbook full of memories to Team Midwest Mom and Chairwoman, Christy Kingsmill. Of course Christy cried, and there were definitely other tears shed throughout the room. Christy has done so much for Team Midwest, and it is hard to imagine the region without her!
The night moved on to dancing and sharing laughs with friends we only get to see a few weeks out of the year. The long drive back home did not prevent skiers from staying up most of the night.The Ohio State University did a fabulous job hosting the event and Winter Conference XX will be hard to top. Good luck to the brave team that takes on the task for next year! However, as much fun as Midwest Winter Conference is, it always makes skiers want to get out on the water as soon as possible. Spring tournaments and more fun times with Team Midwest cannot come soon enough!