with some mixed emotions thrown in.
I have a degree form Auburn University AND the University of Iowa. More importantly, I skied for Auburn ('94-'98, War Damn wet eagle!). I currently ski with the University of Iowa waterski team, as I live in the Iowa City area. Over the last few years, I have become somewhat of an unofficial coach for the Iowa ski team. As is the case with any college ski team, there are members with all levels of passion and dedication to the sport.
Well, with a combination of some talented newbies, and a core of passionate skiers already in place, the Iowa Waterski team earned the wildcard, grabbing the final division 2 spot in the 2011 NCWSA Nationals. It was "only" division 2, and the very last spot, but nonetheless, the wildcard was an achievement to be celebrated. So they celebrated:
Credit to Brian for the foresight to record this emotional explosion
Given the circumstances, one could make an agrument that the Iowa team reacted with a modicum of restraint. To put the wildcard selection in perspective, Iowa had not even qualified for Midwest Collegiate Regionals since 2003, and has NEVER received an invite to NCWSA Nationals, division 1 or 2*. Whatever their placement may turn out to be, they can be proud of what they have accomplished. It is not easy to get to Nationals. Skiing primarily on a practice site currently without a slalom course, much less a ramp, ups the difficulty immensely.
That brings me to the mixed emotions part: As excited and proud as I was of Iowa 's wildcard Nationals invite, I was disappointed that Auburn, my undergraduate and ski team alma mater, placed 5th in the wildcard standings. Since either 2002 (or 2003, I am not exactly sure), Auburn has practiced at Faith Lake in Shorter, AL, a private 3-event tournament site only 30 minutes from campus. In water skiing, quality of practice site has a huge impact on a team's ability to develop and recruit skiers.** That being the case, Iowa, without any buoys or ramps to call their own, took the last Nationals spot.
The guys and girls who lube 'em up and strap 'em on for Auburn right now should learn from this. Auburn has the resources to get to Nationals. I am confident that I speak for every Auburn Waterski Team Alum when I say that I want to see them get back to Nationals. WAR EAGLE and, next week especially, GO HAWKS!
*Unless you count Purdue or Iowa State offering some Iowa skiers a chance to tag along on a Nationals road trip to defray the twin burdens of gas and beer expenses.
**length of the ski season notwithstanding