The #BarefootNation is just a small part of USA Water Ski & Wake Sports but our sport is looming large over the stick skiers… dominating the 2018 USA-WSWS Annual Awards Banquet in Lakeland, Florida Saturday night.
In addition to the American Barefoot Club’s five annual awards, barefooters also won four of the eight USA-WSWS Awards… ones traditionally given to stick skiers! Oh yea… that’s what I am talking about!
Here’s a wrap up of our fabulous winners:
Keith St. Onge, ABC/USA Water Ski & Water Sports MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
After one of the most clutch performances in US National history, Keith St. Onge went on to claim his 19th Overall Open Pro Men’s National title, more than any other man in history. KSO has a total of 14 World Gold Medals, still the World Record holder in Slalom, and a two-time Footstock Open Champion.
Keith has hinted that 2018 could be his last year to compete fully, as the many falls, hits, and hard barefoot jump landings had started to add up. What more could he prove after racking up a record 18th National Overall Championships? What happened in 2018 was a real-life result, that topped any Hollywood ending, where Keith won his 19th Overall National Championship.
He won by smallest of margins, a total of 4 overall points. With just the smallest variance in trick point totals (100 pts equals a 6.9 overall point difference) along with just the smallest dip in his top score in any event and we would have a new National Overall Champion in Jackson Gerard and Keith would have to settled for a Silver Medal. Keith faced his fiercest competitor since Ron Scarpa in Jackson Gerard and rose to the challenge to solidify his victory in his favorite event.
Anyone who watched his slalom run knows we saw something remarkable. Although Athlete of the Year is not a lifetime achievement award, Keith has established himself as the best U.S. Barefooter ever. And we think it fitting to award him this award for his achievement in winning the national championship in the most dramatic fashion ever.
Rachel Normand, ABC FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
After stepping back into the sport in after an 11-year hiatus and retirement from Open Women, Rachel Normand came back strong in 2018, setting two pending World Records in Senior Women Slalom along her path to her a World Senior Womens Title.
Rachel dominated the Senior Womens Division at the 2018 World Barefoot Championships in Canada. She easily won the gold in Trick, Slalom, Jump, Overall and Team Overall… shutting down a strong German Team
This is only the third time in history a Senior Athlete has made a clean sweep of all five gold medals at a World Championships. But along the way Rachel carried herself with the grace and sportsmanship of a true champion, giving our young women barefooters a hero on the dock!
Jason Lee, ABC/USA Water Ski & Water Sports COACH OF THE YEAR
The American Barefoot Club gave Coach Jason Lee the biggest challenge of his barefooting career in 2018. He led the U.S. Junior Barefoot Team to its second consecutive Team Gold… and overall titles in Girls and Boys. Every member of the Junior Team brought home an individual medal!
While coaching the Junior Team to victory… Jason also won the Senior Men’s Overall title, the Senior Men’s Gold Medal in Jumping, and contributed to the Elite Team’s Silver Medal.
“My goals personally were the same as I had for the Junior Team- to ski to my potential with no regrets,” Jason said to The Water Skier Magazine. “I wanted the experience to be fun and positive and promote future ambitions in the sport for all of them.”
This was Jason’s final trip to the Barefoot World Championships and has retired from competition. He is the only person in history to have won a medal in each the Junior, Elite and Senior Worlds. He will continue to inspire and lead barefooting’s next generation… and the one after that.
Tina McCauley, ABC / USA Water Ski & Wake Sports VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR
Tina McCauley has been barefooting for more than a decade, and a few years ago she saw a need at the 2015 National Barefoot Championships. Instead of leaving the ski site after she, her niece and her brother finished skiing, she noticed the Chief Scorer was still working and offered to help.
Not only did she help, but in a few short days at the Nationals she learned the scoring symbols, point values and computer system… becoming the De Facto Assistant Chief Scorer and a valuable member of the official’s team. Early days and late nights didn’t seem to bother Tina and came back for more local, state and national tournaments every year since. Working to get her Level 3 and then Level 2 Scorer’s Rating in record time.
But in 2018… Tina went above and beyond the call of duty. Not only was she Chief Scorer at several local tournaments, the Southern Regional AND the Eastern Regional Tournaments, she stepped into the lead role as the Chief Scorer at the 2018 U.S. Barefoot Nationals. She also was chosen to be one the main Scorers at the 2018 World Barefoot Championships. A high honor, bringing her up to the rare Level 1 Scorer’s Rating.
At the worlds, she learned a new scoring international scoring system so well… that people from around the world now call her for advice on operating it. She has taken the lead in training all of the U.S. Officials on the new program.
In addition to her scoring duties, Tina is now serving as an ABC Regional Director from the East, on the rules committee and awards committee. Whatever Tina does, she does well and with enthusiasm. She is always working to expand and improve our sport and it all started with being willing to pitch in at the end of a long day at Nationals.
Jackson Gerard, ABC / USA Water Ski & Wake Sports JUNIOR ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Jackson Gerard is making a statement in world of Barefoot Water Skiing… and 2018 was an incredible year for the now 16-year-old at the 2018 World Barefoot Championships in Canada.
Jackson won the Boys Overall title for the second time in a row, the gold in tricks, silver in jumping and the bronze in slalom all while leading the junior team to its second consecutive team title. He also pulled double duty, competing on the U.S. Open/Elite Barefoot Team… helping that team win a silver medal.
Most notably, Jackson won the coveted Elite/Open Men’s Tricks Title and the Bronze in the Overall… just behind his coaches and perennial champions David Small and Keith St. Onge.
At the worlds, Jackson set a pending Elite/Open Mens and Junior Boys World Record of 14,050 points and pending Junior Boys slalom records of 19.2 and 19.8 points. He also set a personal best of 80 feet in jumping.
Ryleigh Stenson, ABC RISING SUPERSTAR
Ryleigh Stenson loves to compete. The hockey player from Minnesota has improved tremendously in the past two years, making the world team and the world championships her goal.
Ryleigh didn’t just make it to the 2018 World Barefoot Championships this past year, she earned an alternate spot on the Gold Medal Winning U.S. Junior Barefoot Team and won an individual bronze medal in jumping. She only starting jumping in competition in May of 2018.
We love hard she works and how she genuinely loves to barefoot. She is always looking at how she can improve. Ryleigh is currently ranked 5th in the world for Junior Girls and 18th for the Open Womens Division. We only expect this young woman warrior from the North to improve and take the Open Women by storm in 2019.
Those are the 2018 Awards Winners! We can’t wait to see what the 2019 season brings! The first tournament is April 20 in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida!