Published on Tuesday, 10 June 2014 21:32
Legendary and renowned skiers lined the shores of Robin Lake on May 23-25, yet there were some new faces to Callaway Garden that stood out amongst the throng of athletes competing at the 55th Masters Water Ski and Wakeboard tournament.
Three junior girls skiers, two hailing from Canada and the other from U.S., were among some who appeared for their first time at the Masters. Though newcomers to Robin Lake, Geneva Roach, Paige Rini and Abbi Grathwohl were forces to reckon with, each making their own impact respectively in slalom, trick and jump.
Early Friday morning, the junior girls prepared for the slalom event. Excitement surged through the crowd watching from the pavilion as each girl had the ability to post a score that would advance them into the finals.
“I have never been to a tournament where you’re standing on the dock with only 10 girls and everyone knows they have a chance to win,” Roach said. “It gave a very exciting and hopeful atmosphere because everyone there wanted that win so bad. I had to post a big score right out of the gate.”
Though seeded fourth, Roach was not soon forgotten as she obtained a massive 1.5 buoys at 38 off in the preliminary round, securing her a second place spot into the finals.
In the finals, Roach captured the silver medal with 4 buoys at 35 off. Her impressive finish also achieved an invite to compete against Samantha Dumala in the Obrien head to head, a crowd pleasing event that was showcased before the elite finals.
“Getting to ski right before the pros on Sunday was an incredible experience,” Roach said. “The crowd was absolutely incredible. I had never really skied with an audience so it made me feel like a pro in the making.”
Roach finished runner-up in the Obrien head-to-head.
Later that afternoon, Rini, a 13 year old with average scores of over 6,000 points, appeared for the first time on the trick dock. Before her debut ride at the Masters, Rini prepared by physically visualizing her runs.
“Before I skied, I practiced my runs on land,” Rini said. “One of my goals was to trick 6,000 points. I was very nervous, but when I got out on the water, suddenly, nothing made me nervous.”
Beginning with her toe pass, Rini gracefully spun her way down Robin Lake with a smooth run. However, Robin Lake’s notoriously moving and inconsistent water can take down even the best skiers, and unfortunately, Rini fell early in her hand pass.
Despite falling prematurely in her second run, Rini displayed a worthy example by remaining positive throughout her first Masters experience.
“Just being at the Masters was an amazing feeling,” Rini said. “I will remember being on the dock with my best friends all cheering each other on, hoping we all do well.”
As the tricks event concluded, Grathwohl soaped up her Wiley bindings and strapped on her Schiek sling for jump. Though skiing all three events at the Masters, Grathwohl shined the brightest on her Goodmans.
While Robin Lake is infamously known to be a difficult lake for jumping, Grathwohl was well prepared to take on the challenging conditions.
“I had heard that jump is tricky at Robin Lake,” Grathwohl said. “My wonderful coaches helped prepare me for the quicker set up by turning earlier at the end of the lake. I think this helped keep my confidence up during training and competition.”
Grathwohl conquered the tough water and booted a beautiful jump of 123 ft., a personal best and her first time over the 120 mark, in the preliminary round.
“I was so excited when I went over 120 for the first time,” Grathwohl said. “When the boat judge told me my distance I started hopping around on my skis because I was so happy. Getting a personal best at the Masters was so exciting!”
In the finals, Grathwohl soared to second place with a 120 foot jump, an outstanding finish for her first Masters.
“I am so thankful to everyone who helped me reach my goals. I could not have done it without God, my family, friends, and wonderful coaches.”
Read more: Leaving a Mark at the Masters by Ellie Rae Horton