Buses and vans caravanning the top water ski teams from colleges around the country pulled into Tri Lakes in Zachary, La. for the 2014 National Collegiate Water Ski Association Championship, the FSC Mocs among the top contenders.
Commencing over fall break, the tournament consisted of three days of competition split into Division I and Division II. The Moc’s, ranked top four in the nation, competed in Division I.
The tournament began Thursday morning. Fog still hovered over the water as the first skiers soaped their bindings.
Women’s slalom was first. The Moc’s held their own against the notoriously undefeated University of Louisiana Lafayette and Monroe as four of the five women slalomers from Florida Southern placed in the top 20. Junior Ambre Franc achieved the team’s highest score, recording 4 buoys at 38 off which captured a second place finish behind University of Louisiana Monroe’s Manon Costard.
“I wasn’t expecting to get the score I got,” Franc said. “Costard and I have been competing against each other since we were 10 years old. It gave me the envy to ski better next year and take first place.”
After women’s slalom concluded, it was the men’s turn to shine. All five skiers also finished in the top 20. Junior Thibaut Dailland, making a debut return after being injured and unable to ski at his last nationals in 2012, tied is personal best with 1 buoy at 41 off, seizing second place. He was only one buoy behind the winner.
“I didn’t think trying my best would happen at this tournament,” Dailland said. “The skier before me put up a big score which motivated me to do my best.”
By the end of the first day, the Moc’s were sitting in third, one place higher than their ranking.
Over the course of the next two days, it was a battle to stay ahead of the Moc’s main opponent, University of Alabama, who had edged out the Moc’s for the title at the Eastern Collegiate Regionals two weeks prior.
According to Coach Roger Skalko, the whole team was disappointed after losing to Alabama at regionals. As a result, everyone trained that much harder going into nationals.
The team’s devotion to achieve paid off each day.
On Friday, Dailland lead the way for men’s tricks with a third place finish, tallying 6,440 points. For the women, senior Lauren Morgan achieved the highest jump score for the Moc’s with a leap of 142 feet, which landed her in fourth.
[pullquote]“The skier before me put up a big score which motivated me to do my best.”[/pullquote]
“It wasn’t my best performance but I felt really strong out there and was happy to get a good score for the team,” Morgan said.
While the team still stood in third by the end of the second day, Alabama was close on their tails.
“I think the strength of the team pulling together and really wanting to take the victory over Alabama became a drive for them all,” Roger said.
That determination carried the Moc’s on the last day of competition. Dailland, tying for third place in jump, after gaining a distance of 173 feet, also won the gold medal in individual overall while Morgan, tricking 1,640 points, captured the individual fourth overall award. Combined with other scores from the team, the Moc’s had succeeded. They finished third.
As the team stood on the podium with the bronze trophy in their hands, though it was not the gold, in their hearts, they would all agree it was still a victory.
“Our trophy says third, but don’t let that fool you. We won,” team member Amy Rooker said.