There are 39 teams in the Midwest Region, of those, only 6 are guaranteed a spot at Nationals each year, and then 3 possible wild card slots. In the past 25 years, only 17 Midwest schools have made it to nationals, and of that, only 7 are in the double digits. This year, the University of Cincinnati has consistently qualified for a ten year streak, the longest Midwest streak in recent history.
So what is their secret? I talked with the Cincinnati Secretary, Mallin Blaxall, a second year skier on the team, who shared the Cinci Secrets to 10 years of excellence in shredding buoys, throwing tricks, and just sending it.
Of 39 Midwest teams, how does yours manage to make 10 Nationals appearances in a row?
We have a scrappy team, but we’re always fighting. We get as much time on the water as we can, everyone does what they need to do at tournaments, and we hope for the best!
We have solid coaches, and a strong alumni foundation. We’re very lucky to have an established team, lots of connections, and lots of help. Being in the Midwest, we have a strong foundation. Midwest may never have the all-around best skiers, but we have an amazing community, and a great network of skiers. Because our team has been around for so long, we are able to recruit people who love skiing, and get them on the water!
You have a couple coaches, how have they helped on your #RoadToNationals?
Conner Hoagland put it best when he said “Our coaches have been one of our greatest strengths in getting to Nationals for 10 years in a row. Having a coach at each practice to help you correct small errors is really important when you’re trying to get to the next level of your event. Having them at practice over the summer is also a huge benefit.”
Current Alumni Coaches
Current Non-Alumni Coaches
Shout-out to John (Doc) Brannan for allowing us to use his boat for extra sets, and to Heidi and AJ Koett for pulling extra sets before nationals this year.
Greg Kuenning started the team back in 1997. He lets us use his promo boat for practice. Then there are a couple other alumni who have stuck around to help in any way they can. Finally we have Gar. He’s been around forever. He works at Pickos Ski School over winters, then coaches for Cinci in summer and fall. These guys have helped us a lot with resources, and connections in the water ski community.
What is your practice regimen?
We start practicing in spring, as soon as the water is “warm enough” (This meaning as soon as the ice is melted, it’s still wetsuit season) in April. The team always has Monday evenings secured for practices, from 5pm till dark. In the summer, we hit the lake Sunday mornings as well.
Once fall hits, it’s crunch time. We reach out to alumni and the local lake association for more practice time. We don’t have our own boat, but use promo boats from our coaches. We’re an organized mess, but every year we’ve managed to pull off [Nationals].
Wow, I would have though your team spends a lot more time on the water, or at least the gym! What keeps your team strong?
Our team is very welcoming and super family oriented. We have both a guys and girls ski house, and the rest of us live pretty close to those. We’ve done some events, like we all volunteered at the Cincinnati “Flying Pig” Marathon in May. This past summer we volunteered with Ampuski, and you can actually read about it on #teamnewstuesday. We’re together all the time, or in communication on groupme. We have a team chat that is strictly ski-related. Then we have a social group chat, (separate from our official ski chat) where we invite teammates to sporting events, concerts, etc. No matter what you want to do, you always have a friend to go with. We also have a workout group chat. Our team has always been close, and are always bringing newer members to hang out with veteran skiers. It’s great being friends with your teammates, because then when you need to have serious conversations about skiing, it’s a lot easier.
Ok, so we’ve seen your successes, what are some struggles you face?
Looking ahead, our team looks pretty scary. We have a lot of seniors graduating, and not a ton of recruits. We have very few underclassmen. We don’t get a lot of “ski-babies”. Everyone comes in learning the course.
As well, we’ve had some issues with communication. We have a lot of team equipment, and if someone pulls equipment from the trailer without telling others, someone is going to be lost when they get to the lake with nothing to practice on. A lot of us have our own equipment, but many use team stuff too. But like I said, we’re an organized mess, but it seems to all work out in the end. We’re hoping to bring in some fresh faces next fall.
What do you suggest to struggling teams, or those that just fell short this year?
It’s hard to be competitive without a full roster. Push recruitment, and do as much of it as you can!
Be friends with your teammates. It helps practice run smoother, and the team as a whole. It’s all better when you’re all close.
As for funding, reach out to your School Club Sports Board/ Office. They WANT to help you. Work with them! We have 3 team members on the board. Most councils don’t know what it takes to run a collegiate ski team. We can’t just go to any open grassy field to practice, we need some expensive equipment just to start! Having skiers on the board has helped the team to get an edge up on understanding how the allocation and funding process works, as well as understanding how they divvy up funds. Having 3 members on the board, they also have a bigger say in the process. Get involved, and it will help you out.
As well, we’ve done things like Chipotle Fundraisers. They, and many other restaurants, have “give back” nights when you get a portion of the sales you bring in. As well, we volunteered at the marathon, and they gave us a thank you donation, since we’re a school team. We also have had a lot of success with our end-of-the-year banquet. We have an auction and sell spirit-wear. This brought in a lot of funds for us.
Otherwise, all the school allocations go towards Nationals. We just had to pay for the flights (Besides team dues) last year, and this year we are able to drive to Bennetts. Most tournaments, if we drive over 100 miles, we have to rent a car. This all has to be paid for by the team. But we try to keep dues low, and between allocations, fundraisers, and our support network, we end up Ok!
What are some notable milestones in the past decade?
This year, and last year too, we lost the majority of our Men’s A slalom and Jump teams. We were worried, but the remaining Men’s team really stepped it up, and we’ve done better than expected each year. Everyone has really stepped it up in leadership too.
Alumni Casey Burke noted that 2008, UC’s first year at NCWSA Nationals, they won the D2 title, and team of the year. This was a great booster for the team and was the sixth year since the 2-division format was started in 2002, allowing of 5 teams from each region a spot at the competition. See their news interview here: UC Ski Nat Champs on WXIX
Mark Rosemblum shared photos of 2008, our first annual Ski, Freeze or Die, our winter ski sets. Then in 2009 our team member Sarah Rosenblum won the first ever Buckeye Buoy Tour, the Ohio State Ski Association 3-event tour, beating out the UC founder and Coach, Greg. Many other BearCats were there, with teammates and coaches at the top of scoreboard.
2011 UC competed in Division 1 Nationals for the first time, and in 2012 we won the NCWSA Spirit Award while competing in Division 1!
What are your expectations going into the 2017 Connelly Skis NCWSA Nationals?
Really, just getting to nationals has always been the end goal. We have a lot of Midwest competition, so it’s always close. We’re really excited for this opportunity, squeaking into the last wildcard spot. So Getting to Nationals is the end goal, and from there, we just celebrate our season, have fun, and love being on the water. We’re ecstatic to be going, would love to hit a PB, but really no high expectations. We have a couple team members who are involved in Greek life, work, or have other commitments that don’t allow them to go. We aren’t bringing our top 3 Men’s slalomers, so we don’t have our strongest team.
What are you most excited for at Nationals?
Nationals was so much fun last year, skiing there. But really getting to watch the pros, literally pros walking among us as peers, is so cool. I was flabbergasted watching. Otherwise, I’m excited to hang out with my team, I love my team so much. We also may take a day trip to New Orleans, to explore the culture. As well, the banquet is always a blast