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Eminence to host Kentucky State Water Ski Championships this weekend at Stillwater Lake

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By Tommie Kendall

The best water skiers in the state will converge on Stillwater Lake in Eminence this weekend to vie for top spots in the annual Kentucky State Water Ski Championships. The last two times Stillwater played host to the state championships, sanctioned by the American Water Ski Association, were in 2005 and 2002. Stillwater opened the statewide competitions June 14 with a slalom-only event that attracted 18 skiers, which was down more than 20 percent from previous years. Leon Leonard, who bought Eminence Lake in 1995 and changed the name to Stillwater, thinks the lower-than-normal turnout had to due to the never-ending rising cost at the pump. For the state championship, 42 skiers have either pre-registered or given their confirmation over the phone, Leonard said. “We’re probably down about 10 from three years ago, but we’ve got the bulk of the water skiers in Kentucky,” said Leonard, who will be a competitor during the two days. At the state championships, all three skiing events will be on the schedule — slalom, trick and jump — in numerous age divisions. In slalom, individuals perform on one ski, attempting to negotiate around the outside of six buoys in a zigzag course without falling or missing a buoy in consecutive passes. The athletes receive one point for every buoy that he or she successfully rounds. Competitors start out at a certain speed, and if they clear all buoys then the speed increases on each pass until the maximum speed is reached. Then, the rope shortens each pass until the athlete fails to clear all buoys. The tricks event is the most technical of the three. An athlete attempts to perform as many tricks as possible during two 20-second passes. Each trick has an assigned point value and an athlete may perform each trick only once. Meanwhile, the jumps event has no style points. Athletes have three attempts to jump as far as possible. The ramp is set at a certain height, depending on the age category and gender. The competitions will start at 8 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday, and last until 5 to 6 p.m. with slalom going off first, followed by jumps and tricks. There will be five to six categories for each gender, ranging in age from 8 to 74. Besides bragging rights and state titles, skiers will be trying to work their way up the national standings at Stillwater over the weekend. “This is a qualifying step towards nationals,” Leonard said. “It used to be you could qualify for nationals with two tournaments, now you have to be high on a national list to make it.” Each skier’s top three performances at tournaments throughout the season are averaged, then placed on a national list in numerical order. The number of athletes that make nationals depends on the amount of skiers in each category. For more information about Stillwater Lake, questions about this weekend’s Kentucky State Water Ski Championships scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, or to find out how to get involved in competitive water skiing, contact Leonard at (502)845-2850. E-mail us about this story at sports@hclocal.com.