The Wonder Lake Water Ski Show Team captured second place at the National Show Ski Championship Aug. 13 in Loves Park.
“It went great. We were very pleased with a second-place finish,” said Jarret Graff, a member of the ski team board and publicity director.
The Wonder Lake team competed in the Division 1 category, facing off against 13 other teams. Teams that advance at regional competitions earn an invite to compete at nationals. The Wonder Lake Ski Team claimed its first national championship in 1996 and has placed in the top five at nationals every year since. The team has been national champions five times, with the most recent title in 2016.
“Coming back as national champions, it is very difficult to repeat. To get second was a big accomplishment for us,” Graff said.
Each team’s 13-act show is scored by a panel of seven judges on difficulty, execution, spectator appeal and flow. Wonder Lake’s five-high pyramid was the highest scoring act of the competition. Wonder Lake also had the highest scoring barefoot act.
The team consists of about 140 members, approximately 60 of whom ski. Non-skiing teammates contribute behind the scenes, rolling ropes, working on costumes, driving boats and running the sound for the show.
The youngest skier on Wonder Lake’s team at nationals was a 7-year-old and the oldest was 60.
“It’s very much a family sport,” said Graff, who also skis.
Skiier Dan Hansen, Wonder Lake, won the Skip Wilkerson award for the top male performer at the tournament. This was Hansen’s second time earning the award.
The first-place team was from Sarasota, Fla.
“They do have an advantage,” said Graff, who pointed to Florida’s longer season for practicing water ski routines. “They’ve been able to work on this show for a year. Non-Florida teams have only had three to four months.”
Even though show season is coming to a close for 2017, the team effort continues throughout the year. The team spends the off-season determining a theme, writing a show and doing some indoor practicing.
At 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 18, the team will be celebrating its finish back on local waters, performing for local spectators at Main Beach in Wonder Lake. Performances in Wonder Lake run Friday nights and are free to attend. They are held from Memorial Day to Labor Day each year.