Ryan Chartrand

Since resurfacing in 2003, the Cal Poly water ski club team has not yet been to the prestigious National Collegiate Water Ski Association Nationals.

That will change this weekend when the Mustangs head to Rio Linda, Calif., for nationals, which will be hosted by Sacramento State.

“It’s huge,” said Amanda Willson, who is in her final quarter competing with the team. “This spring we’ve finally picked up a sponsor for our boat. The last four years it’s all coming together. It’s going to be really interesting to see what happens.”

Willson, who graduated from Cal Poly in 2005 with a degree in recreation, served previously as the club’s president, a post now held by Colin Gibbs. She said the team’s roots date back to the 1970s before it was brought back three years ago.

In his third year with the team, Gibbs said the Mustangs being slotted No. 1 in the NCWSA Western Division II rankings provides the team confidence.

“We’re stoked,” Gibbs said. “Making it to nationals is crazy.”

Nationals run Thursday through Saturday.

Cal Poly has 35 to 40 team members, but only 21 will compete this weekend, Willson said.

She added the biggest improvement to the program in recent years has been the stability of having a boat with a sponsor.

“You can’t practice water ski if you don’t have a boat,” Willson said.

The team practices three to five days a week at Lake Nacimiento near Paso Robles. Its funds come from both fundraisers and ASI support, Gibbs said.

There are two divisions at nationals. Cal Poly, which competes in the Western Collegiate Water Ski Conference, is in Division II alongside its top rival, San Diego State.

The Aztecs eliminated the sixth-place Mustangs at regionals last year and the two teams will meet again this weekend. Nationals last year were in Kentucky.

In addition to Cal Poly, NCWSA Western Division teams include traditional Pac-10 schools Arizona, Arizona State, Stanford, UCLA, USC and Oregon.

After competing at the Chico State Tournament and Western Regionals in Arizona earlier this year, Cal Poly feels ready for this weekend, Willson said.

“The team has a really good chance of winning if we ski to our capability,” she said. “The team has turned a lot of heads in conference.”

Gibbs said the Mustangs have been lifted by the efforts of standout freshmen Greg Olson and Garrett Hollinsworth.

The team meets at 8 p.m. Tuesdays in Fisher Science, room 287.

“I’m always wanting to encourage anybody who is interested to check it out,” Gibbs said.

Gibbs said his favorite aspect of water skiing is the wide range of skill levels seen at tournaments throughout the fall and spring quarters, when the team competes.

“You can go to a tournament and ski against the best in the world,” he said. “And at the other end of that, there are people who have never skied before.”

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