Seven water skiers that regularly train at Stillwater Lake, located between Eminence and New Castle on Hwy. 55, made the drive to Paducah on July 11-12 for the Kentucky State Water Ski Championships, and came back with impressive results.
Stillwater’s representatives combined to win nine events and broke two state-championship records. The top results came from Lauren Harris, who won all three events — slalom, trick and jump — and broke the record in the slalom with a score of 83.25 buoys, and Leon Leonard, who is the Stillwater Lake owner and won slalom in a new state record of 91.5. Stillwater hosted the state event in 1998, 2000, 2002, 2005 and 2008, and is set to host it again in July 2011.
“I would say this year’s event was more closely contested than past state championships,” said Leonard, who bought Eminence Lake in 1995 and changed the name to Stillwater. “There were new faces that arrived on the scene who performed exceptionally well. It made for better competition.”
Those who train at Stillwater and competed at state included Harris from Nicholasville, Leonard from Eminence, Greg and Sam Kever from Versailles, Joe Duff from Lexington, and John and Pam Harris from Nicholasville.
Sam Kever won the trifecta — slalom, trick and jump — in the Boys 3 Division to bring back three titles, which matched Lauren Harris in the Girls 2 Division. Duff took first place in slalom and trick for Men 8; Pam Harris placed third in the slalom Women 3 Division despite the distraction of serving as Chief Scorer for the weekend; Greg Kever placed fourth in the slalom Men 4 Division; and John Harris placed fifth in the slalom Men 4 Division. Leonard’s record-setting win came in the Men 6 Division. There were 49 skiers that competed.
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.
For most of the skiers, Leonard said, the state championship is third in line in terms of most importance behind the regional and national tournaments. But it still is a key tournament. The Southern Region Championships includes Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama and Florida, and will be held in Paducah this year. This year’s national event is in Florida.
“For most skiers, their focus is really on regionals and nationals,” Leonard said. “About half of our group qualifies for nationals each year.”
Leonard, the only skier to actually live in Henry County, is a multiple state record holder for both the state-championship event and the at-large record holder for any event in Kentucky by a resident of the state. He was inducted into the Kentucky Water Ski Federation Hall of Fame in 2004. Any member of the KWSF can elect a person, who is then voted on by current officers, Leonard said.
As for Stillwater, the lake hosted a tournament in June and will close out the season with a slalom-only event on Sept. 5. For more information about Stillwater Lake, or to find out how to get involved in competitive water skiing, contact Leonard at (502)845-2850.
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