Scores are in, tents are packed, flip flops relocated, and the West is off to a great start! California State University, Chico (aka Chico State) hosted their famous Fall Opener this past weekend where eight collegiate teams were represented. Veterans of college skiing know this tournament is not to be missed and this weekend proved that once more.
Although Saturday mornings are unpopular with college students, skiers were able to rally for an 8:00am start. Men’s slalom skiers were the first to take to the water, followed by the ladies. Most skiers came off the water happy with their performance, and with many compliments to the lake. However, this being the first tournament after a long summer, some skiers interpreted the tournament name as the “Fall on Opener”.
“My slalom pass went great” said Chico graduate and experienced slalom skier Sean Crossland, “but then I missed my exit gates. I went for 7-ball.”
After slalom the tournament rolled smoothly into tricks. Conditions could not have been better, and the beautiful late afternoon sun made for great performances and even better photo-ops.
A highly anticipated taco dinner followed tricks, creating a perfect end to the day. Appointed Chief Chef James Ramos was pleased that he was able to feed an entire tournament using only one barbecue.
“I had no propane” said James, “but it was a lot of fun and it was a great time.” A group was asked if they enjoyed dinner; all responded collectively with a big “Yes!”
The next morning brought a much appreciated later start and everyone’s favorite event as many first timers rose to the challenge of facing big red. The ladies were first to jump and the crowds gathered on shore to watch. Huge splashes and big crashes followed, but nonetheless many skied away victorious. The gents followed and despite crashing less showed that quality trumps quantity when it comes to jump crashes.
Chico’s Cam Lesslee was able to land a jump for his first time on Sunday; “I just clenched and held on.” Cam explained. “I was so stoked”. Onlookers proclaimed that Cam threw the fist so hard in celebration that a shockwave formed that could be heard from the starting dock. In later rounds many jumpers showed us all how it’s really done as they soared down the lake in beautiful form. In the end, despite a slightly biased measuring grid, the jump even went swimmingly.
Just as quickly as it started the tournament came to a close and another great weekend was in the books. The weekend was even described as “euphoric” by Cal Poly’s Nick Marakas. Being the only tournament before Western Regionals, the Fall Opener is the only chance for many west coast teams to assess their outlook for Nationals. Cory Wilson, a former UCLA team captain, said this tournament was great for “shaking off the rust from summer.” Cory explained he was initially worried about not being able to bring a full team to Western Regionals which will be in Washington. “We’re right on the cusp of qualifying, so we got stoked and now we have more than a full team going” said Cory.
In the end spirits were high and now everyone is counting the days until we all meet again at Western Regionals (eleven days, by the way). The tournament ran smoothly and fun times were had by all. “Everyone was much more helpful than I anticipated” said Tournament Coordinator Lexi Phillips. “Plus I skied the best I have all semester!” In just two weeks time Western Region teams will journey to Tate Lake in the state of Washington for their regional tournament where the top 5 teams will earn the right to go on to the NCWSA Nationals at Imperial Lakes in El Centro, California.
As for the podium, San Diego State took first place, followed by UC Davis in second and Chico State in third. Thanks to UC Davis for the feature photo, you can follow them on Facebook. The entire score book can be found online here. (Just scroll past the 3,000 way tie in the team overall.) Score books from this tournament and others can be viewed on USA Water Ski.