While some University students enjoy a casual bicycle ride through the park, Meghan Gruszynski, a junior civil engineering student, grabs a rope and dances through the air behind a speeding boat. To her, wakeboarding isn’t a sport; it’s a lifestyle choice.
Last weekend Gruszynski and other wakeboarders from the University Waterski and Wakeboard Club competed in a national sports competition in Reno, Nev.
The University team hit the waves at the CSTV Collegiate Nationals and won third place among the dozen or so wakeboard teams that competed.
“Everyone was shocked down there that Minnesota was there,” Gruszynski said. “And then the fact that we placed within the top three, it was just an amazing feat for us.”
Nick Clausnitzer, a bioscience senior and one of the five team members who participated in the tournament, received the honor of Best Overall Wakeboarder in the competition.
“I just rode really consistent the whole weekend,” he said. “I landed the tricks I needed to land.”
Most wakeboarding and water-skiing competitions involve events such as jumps, tricks and slalom skiing, said Corey Bergendahl, a mechanical engineering sophomore and the president of the club.
Besides being invited to Reno, the team participates in tournaments throughout the Midwest. Gruszynski said last year the team received first place in a competition in Wisconsin, where an organizer for the national competition spotted them.
“He was looking for the Midwest to be incorporated somehow,” Meghan said. “That’s why we got invited, because we placed first as a wakeboard team there.”
The club, which started about four years ago, has about 40 members, Bergendahl said. The team practices on lakes on weekdays during the warm seasons.
“We practice whenever the ice is off the lake. As soon as there’s water, we’re out there,” Gruszynski said.
So far the team has come a long way, Bergendahl said. The club members support themselves through fundraising and have their own 2005 Malibu boat, a “tournament-quality ski boat.”
The University club is compiled of University students from all different skill levels, Bergendahl said.
“At least half of our members have never even been exposed to competitive water-skiing,” he said. “We’ve got people that joined the team and had never even been on the water.”
Besides the collection of undergraduate and graduate students, a University professor can be seen on the waves at practices from time to time.
Paul Rapnicki, a clinical professor in the department of veterinary medicine, said he enjoys water-skiing with the club.
“I like to water-ski. I work with animals and I figure most of (the members) are kind of like animals,” he said. “You’re only young once, but you can always be immature.”
Rapnicki sees water-skiing as leisure time away from the seriousness of work.
“I work with dairy cows, and cows really don’t water-ski very often,” he said.
Although Rapnicki is not eligible to compete in the collegiate events, he said he participates in the practices and helps the club with budgeting and finding resources for fundraising.
“Over the last couple of years they’ve really gotten a lot more organized, and I think that’s probably why they’re doing so well in the tournaments now,” he said. “They’re a pretty motivated group of kids, and they do a good job of representing the University.”