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Eminence hosts State water Ski Championships

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By Tommie Kendall

Rain and lightning might have dampened and delayed the Kentucky State Water Ski Championships over the weekend, but the unstable weather conditions could not stop the best statewide skiers from topping the all-time Kentucky list. After the two-day event, held at Stillwater Lake in Eminence, 33 different skiers were crowned state champions, and seven different state records were set. The competition, sanctioned by the American Water Ski Association, was delayed twice on Saturday — once due to heavy rain and once for a bolt of lightning spotted in the area. The following day, though, the rain stayed away on a perfect day for skiing. The athletes converged on Stillwater to partake in the state championship, which Eminence last hosted in 2002 and 2005. “I thought the tournament went pretty well,” said Leon Leonard, who bought Eminence Lake in 1995 and changed the name to Stillwater. “We ended up with 44 skiers — probably about what I expected but down a little from three years ago.” Stillwater opened the statewide competitions June 14 with a slalom-only event that attracted 18 skiers, and will close out its season on Aug. 31 with another slalom event. At the state championship, all three events were contested — slalom, tricks and jumps. 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. There were five to six categories for each gender, ranging in age from 8 to 74. During the state finals this year, seven records were broken. Lauren Harris of Nicholasville broke the Girls’ 2 division slalom record with a score of 81; Brittany Collins of Murray broke the Women’s 1 division jumps with a distance of 84 feet; Suzane Webb of Leitchfield broke the Women’s 5 division records in both the slalom with 71 and tricks with 440 points; Carrol Marquess of Paducah broke the Men’s 5 division tricks with 2,710 points; Dave Keller of Burnside broke the Men’s 6 division tricks with 1,730 points; and Leonard of Eminence broke the Men’s 6 division slalom with 86 points. For Leonard, this is his second state record with a top mark in the Men’s 5 division before moving up to Men’s 6 this season. His Men’s 5 mark has since been bettered. For more information about Stillwater Lake, upcoming events, 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.