Ellie Rae Horton was born into a water ski family.
Recently, she won the national title in the tricks competition at the National Collegiate Water Ski Association Championship.
The California native grew up water skiing, and she says it is something her whole family loves.
“I’m the third generation water skier,” Horton said. “My grandpa started skiing, then he passed it down to my dad who passed it down to me, and I fell in love with it.”
Horton’s grandfather built a man-made water ski lake in California. He purchased land in the Mojave Desert, built two lakes and started his own ski school.
“It was super successful. A lot of famous people like John Travolta would come ski there,” Horton said. “And then that’s where I learned to ski.”
Horton competed throughout high school in tournaments organized by the American Water Ski Association.
These tournaments allow skiers to earn rankings in order to qualify for national and international championships.
Horton’s parents began sending her to Florida every spring break to ski in Orlando.
She met Florida Southern College head coach Roger Skalko at an FSC fundraiser tournament in Polk City.
“He started recruiting me and telling me about Florida Southern,” Horton said. “It was always my dream to live on a lake, so I knew if I came here I could ski every day.”
The communication student has enjoyed being on a team and competing at the collegiate level.
She claimed the overall women’s title at the Eastern Regional Championship and was ready for the National Championship.
Skalko told Horton and the other skiers to stay relaxed heading into competition.
“I tell them to just go out and ski their way,” Skalko said. “Don’t try to overdo anything and it will all work out. This year, they did and it worked out.”
Horton placed 18th in slalom on the first day of competition, sixth in jumping the following day, and won the national title in tricks on the final day.
Horton tied for fifth in the overall women’s standings.
“I knew if I skied really well at nationals I would have a chance at placing,” Horton said. “But honestly I never dreamed of placing first.”
Horton outscored the second place skier by almost 600 points. She could not believe she won.
“When I found out I got first, I was shocked. It was such an awesome feeling,” Horton said. “It was nice to see all of my hard training pay off.”
While at FSC, Horton has her mind set on reclaiming her title in the tricks competition as well as working her way to the top of the world rankings.
“Ellie will be one of the world champions skiers in the near future,” Skalko said. “She already has her open women overall placement which makes her one of the highest ranked skiers in the world.”