Water skiing club filled with All-Americans

There aren’t many club sports teams that can say they compete for national titles and have All-Americans every year.

However, the water skiing club is one of the few organizations on campus that can make this claim. The team has produced an All-American nearly every year since its inception and took a medal at the national championship this year.

“We have produced nearly fifty All-Americans in more than thirty years that we’ve been a team,” said ski club advisor Tom Strong. “That’s something we’re real proud of. It speaks to the quality of our skiers. Many of them have become professional water skiers on a professional water circuit.”

Much of the team’s success can be attributed to recruiting. The ski club brings in top talent from across America. There are only a few Alabamians on the roster.

“We have a bunch of skiers from out of state,” said Caroline Hensley, an All-American sophomore skier from Tennessee. “There are a few who are from in state. UA is a great school for water skiing. That’s why we get so many people.”

The completely American roster sets the UA ski club aside from many of its competitors that bring in professional skiers from other countries.

“We’re an All-American team, and we’re all college students,” club president Haley Runion said. “The other teams have recruited people from Italy, Austria and Mexico. That’s why it’s so hard to compete.”

Since skiing is not a NCAA sport, it is not illegal for schools to recruit students who are used to getting paid for their performances on the water. Instead of getting paid to ski for skiing for their chosen school, these professional skiers get their college education paid for. Some skiers on opposing teams have been up to 30 years old.

This semester, the team took first place at regionals in Georgia before heading to the national championship competition. The team finished third at nationals this year, which was held in Texas.

“We had a good season,” Strong said. “We came in third [at nationals]. We knew we were capable of challenging for the top position. We had some people fall early. There was a little disappointment. We came in third at nationals and I’m proud of that.”

The Tide finished behind the University of Louisiana Monroe and the University of Louisiana Lafayette, who rose from last year’s fourth place finish to come out on top this year. Last year, the University came in second behind Louisiana-Monroe, which took home its 22nd national title.

Strong said a couple of skiers performed exceptionally at nationals.

“We had one skier, Dylan Schaffer, who is a freshman, beat everyone in the trick skiing category, and I’m awfully proud,” Strong said. “Also, Caroline [Hensley], an All-American, is one of the greatest skiers in the world here at UA.”

Hensley recently competed in the 2010 Pan American championships.

Runion says the team has continued to practice steadily while preparing for three competitions that will take place during the spring semester. The team has been using the time to get ready for another run at a national championship title.

“Over the winter, the skiers will begin their training regimen and crack down on the books,” Strong said. “We’ll be using time away from the water to improve body and mind.”

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