‘Cats compete at water-ski nationals

Sami Miller
Sami Miller, a freshman, practices for her national competition. Photo credit: Emily Teague

Over the weekend, the Chico State Water Ski Team competed in the 36th Collegiate Water Ski National Championships and placed 10th overall out of 12 Division II schools, with the women’s team taking first in slalom.

Chico State sent five men and four women to compete at nationals, with Sean Crossland and Sami Miller leading the Wildcats. Miller took fourth place in slalom and fifth overall as an individual.

The ‘Cats took fourth place in the Western Regional tournament out of 10 teams earlier this year. The team finished in seventh place last year at nationals.

The team competes in three different events: slalom, trick and jump. So far in the year, the Wildcats are first in women’s and second in men’s slalom in their division. Slalom is a speed-based event where the skier zigzags through a series of six buoys with both feet on one ski.

Sami Miller
Freshmen, Sami Miller, practices for her national competition Photo credit: Emily Teague

After the skier reaches their personal max speed, topping off at 36 mph for men and 34 mph for women, the rope is shortened after each successful run. The shortening of the rope increases the difficulty of the run by increasing the speed and G-forces on the skier as they side wind through the buoys.

When a skier is crossing the wake during a slalom event, he/she can accelerate to 55-60 mph and produce 2-3 units of G-force. G-force refers to the amount of force acting on the body as a result of acceleration. The run will continue to increase in difficulty until the skier misses a buoy or falls.

The Wildcats have been practicing five days a week at nearby Willow Lake. Former team president Carl Johnson lives directly on the lake and gives the team access to a practice location just 10 minutes away from campus.

Sean Crossland
Senior, Sean Crossland Photo credit: Emily Teague

The lake is roughly the size of a football field and just 5 1/2 feet deep with two circular roundabouts at both ends for turning around and continuing the run. A typical day of practice will consist of six passes through the buoys for each skier.

“The team coaches each other on their form, body position and small adjustments that makes a big difference,” Crosslands said.

Senior, Mike Pingatore
Senior, Mike Pingatore, has been the team MVP for the past two years. Photo credit: Emily Teague

The Wildcats will be headed to San Diego for the USD Tournament on Nov. 22th for their next competition.

Here’s a look at the team’s top competitors:

Sami Miller:

  • Freshman and first-year water skiing as a Wildcat.
  • 15 years of water skiing experience.
  • First in women’s slalom at the Fall Opener Tournament and third at the Western Regional tournament.
  • Her key to success: “Staying calm is very important. You have to a clear mindset the whole way through, and a good rhythm.”

Sean Crossland:

  • Senior and fourth-year water skier for the Wildcats.
  • 17 years of water skiing experience and can ride at max speed: 36 mph.
  • Third in men’s slalom in the Western Regional tournament.
  • Most important aspect of Slalom: “Rely on what your body knows: the muscle memory and focusing on the little things, progressing little by little, every mile per hour and every shorter rope length.”

Michael Pingatore:

  • Senior and second-year skier for the Wildcats.
  • First competed in regionals at 6 years old and nationals since age 9.
  • MVP of the Chico State Wildcats in 2013 and 2012.
  • Favorite aspect of water skiing: “What I love about water skiing the most is the flow of it. It’s calm and relaxing.”

Lars Gustafson can be reached at @[email protected] or @larsonsports on Twitter.