USA Water Ski and respective sport discipline organizations are pleased to announce award recipients for 2015. Freddy Krueger (Winter Garden, Fla.) and Regina Jaquess (Santa Rosa Beach, Fla.) have been selected USA Water Ski's 2015 Male Athlete of the Year and Female Athlete of the Year, respectively. The U.S. Disabled Water Ski Team earned USA Water Ski's 2015 Team of the Year honors. The award recipients will be honored on Saturday, Jan. 30, at the Lake Eva Banquet Hall in Haines City, Fla.
The ceremony, which celebrates the 2015 water ski season, will be held in conjunction with USA Water Ski's mid-winter board meetings for the 16th consecutive year. The award winners were selected either by the USA Water Ski Awards Committee or by the sport discipline's organization. The awards banquet is open to the public. Information on ticket pricing and availability will be posted soon at www.USAWATERSKI.org.
Bill Baker (Eagleville, Pa.) is the recipient of USA Water Ski's Award of Merit, the organization's highest award for a volunteer. In addition, Lori Krueger-Covington (Martindale, Texas), the coach of the U.S. Pan American Water Ski Team at the 2015 Pan American Games, was selected USA Water Ski's National Coach of the Year, Cody Heller (Alma Center, Wis.) was named USA Water Ski's Developmental Coach of the Year, and Eric Lee (Mecca, Calif.) was named USA Water Ski's Volunteer Coach of the Year. Shauna Pasanen (Winter Haven, Fla.) was selected the Volunteer of the Year and Alex Lauretano (Windermere, Fla.) was named the recipient of the organization's That's Incredible Award.
This marks the second consecutive and 11th time in his career that Krueger has been selected USA Water Ski's Male Athlete of the Year. In addition to setting a new world ski flying record of 312 feet at the MasterCraft Throwdown in August, Krueger won jumping titles at the Moomba Masters, Moomba Masters Night Jump, Aqua X Games (Perth Night Jump), Stokes Pro Am and Nautique U.S. Open Water Ski Championships. Krueger also finished runner-up at the Nautique Masters Water Ski Tournament, London Night Jump and Rocketman Night Jump. A nagging knee injury that bothered him much of the season kept Krueger from competing in the Water Ski World Championships in November.
This marks the fourth consecutive and ninth time in her career that Jaquess has been selected USA Water Ski's Female Athlete of the Year. She won slalom titles at the Masters, Swiss Pro Slalom, Malibu Cup, GOODE Water Ski National Championships, Malibu Open, California Pro Am, U.S. Open and Water Ski World Championships. Jaquess won jumping titles at the Pan American Games and Nationals, and she won overall titles at the Pan American Games, Nationals, U.S. Open and Water Ski World Championships, becoming the only female to win four career world overall titles.
The U.S. Disabled Water Ski Team won the world team gold medal and six U.S. team members won individual medals at the 12th Barbara Bolding/Jim Grew Fund Disabled Water Ski World Championships, Sept. 24-27, at Shortline Lake in Elk Grove, Calif. U.S. team members earned a total of 16 individual medals, including eight gold medals, five silver medals and three bronze medals. Members of the team were: Connor Poggetto (Carmichael, Calif.); Dave Carter (Dallas, Ga.); Bill Furbish (Atlanta, Ga.); Chad Guzman (Gilbert, Ariz.); Elijah Hager (Alexis, N.C.); Jeff Hancock (Redmond, Ore.); Katie Mawby (Grand Haven, Mich.); Robbie Parks (Lexington, N.C.); Joe Ray (Wilsonville, Ala.); Dan Reed (Indianapolis, Ind.); Mike Royal (Magnolia, Texas); Craig Timm (Center City, Minn.); Mark Turner (Buda, Texas); and Chuck Wesson (Charlotte, N.C.). Rhonda Van Dyk (Belding, Mich.) and Jessica Van Dyk (Belding, Mich.) served as co-team managers, Denise Bowness (Brandon, Miss.) was the coach, and Dr. Keith Barbour (Monroe, Mich.) was the team physician.
Baker has always sought to inspire water skiers to become officials and current officials to move to higher levels through teaching, sharing and testing. The example he has set as an official is an everlasting contribution to maintaining the highest level of integrity and sportsmanship in the tournaments of the American Water Ski Association's Eastern Region and wherever he is officiating. An accomplished slalom skier and jumper at the regional and national levels, Baker's contributions as an official and administrator have been immense. He was a charter member of the Port Indian Ski Club; senior judge since 1987; Pan Am judge since 1992; past chief judge of the Eastern Regionals, U.S. Team Trials and Nationals; AWSA national director; Eastern Region executive vice president; and AWSA vice president.
Krueger-Covington was the coach of the 2015 U.S. Pan American Water Ski Team at the XVII Pan American Games, July 20-23, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The U.S. Team finished with three gold medals, three silver medals and two bronze medals during the four-day competition.
Heller, who also serves as the president of the American Barefoot Club and works full time on his family's dairy farm in Wisconsin, helped coach fellow barefoot water ski athlete Brody Meskers, a novice jumper 12 months earlier, to the Open Men national title in August 2015.
Lee has coached collegiate water ski athletes throughout Southern California, including students at UC San Diego, San Diego State, University of San Diego and UCLA, for more than 20 years. He also was a key figure in ensuring the success of the inaugural Western Regional Alumni tournament last August.
Pasanen has been instrumental in the growth of swivel skiing and swivel skiing tournaments through the Flaunt It series of events, which included four tournaments in 2015, including the first USA Water Ski sanctioned show competition of any kind in California. She also volunteered her time for swivel clinics at the annual Wisconsin Water Ski Federation Think Tank; helped organize the inaugural Chain of Records event; served on the board of directors for On The Edge Children's Foundation; and became a member of the National Show ski Association's Individual Acts Committee, where she has taken on the task of obtaining video of each swivel maneuver on the NSSA's difficulty grid and posting all of them to YouTube.
After missing the entire 2014 season battling rheumatoid arthritis, Lauretano earned a spot in the 2015 Masters Water Ski Tournament via the Last Chance Qualifier (a week earlier) and finished third. She then went to the U.S. Elite Water Ski Team Trials and was selected to the U.S. team with minimal practice in jumping beforehand. There were serious concerns in 2014 that Lauretano might never be able to compete again in all three events. But she persevered in world-class fashion and placed fourth overall at the 34th Water Ski World Championships, Nov. 17-22, in Chapala, Jalisco, Mexico. She also soared 169 feet in the finals of women's jumping to earn the bronze medal, her first career elite world championship medal. She is the first U.S. athlete to medal in women's jumping at the Worlds since 2003.
Additional 2015 awards from USA Water Ski sport discipline organizations are as follows:
American Barefoot Club: Landen Ehlers (Austin, Texas), Male Athlete of the Year; Shannon Heller (Alma Center, Wis.), Female Athlete of the Year; and Jackson Gerard (Lake Wales, Fla.), Rising Star.
American Kneeboard Association: Ken Stuart (Blue Ridge, Ga.), Male Athlete of the Year; A'lisa Piper (Lake Placid, Fla.), Female Athlete of the Year; Austin Daman (Talking Rock, Ga.), Junior Male Athlete of the Year; and Allie Maloney (Alpharetta, Ga.), Junior Female Athlete of the Year.
American Water Ski Association: Freddy Krueger (Winter Garden, Fla.), Male Athlete of the Year; Regina Jaquess (Santa Rosa Beach, Fla.), Female Athlete of the Year and Overall Skier of the Year; U.S. Pan American Water Ski Team, Team of the Year; Alex Lauretano (Windermere, Fla.), Jump Skier of the Year; Nate Smith (McCordsville, Ind.), Slalom Skier of the Year; Anna Gay (Winter Garden, Fla.), Trick Skier of the Year; Griffin Stange (Sherman, Texas), Rising Superstar; and Bob Harris (Paducah, Ky.), Volunteer of the Year.
National Collegiate Water Ski Association: Thibaut Dailland (France) of Florida Southern College (Male Athlete of the Year); Taryn Grant (Canada) of Louisiana-Lafayette (Female Athlete of the Year); Newt Cutcliffe (San Diego, Calif.) of San Diego State University (Male Outstanding Leader); Lauren Smith (Lawton, Mich.) of Michigan State (Female Outstanding Leader); and Louisiana-Lafayette (Team of the Year).
National Show Ski Association: Aquanut Water Shows, Inc. (Twin Lakes, Wis.), Team of the Year; Rachael Zenk (La Crosse, Wis.), Female Athlete of the Year; Cameron Baxter (Machesney Park, Ill.), Male Athlete of the Year; Kurt Bemman (Fenton, Mich.), Honorary National Director; Skip Gilkerson (posthumously), Honorary National Director; Shauna Pasanen (Winter Haven, Fla.), Volunteer of the Year; and Jeremy Armstrong (Winter Haven, Fla.), Geno Yauchler (Winter Haven, Fla.) and Shauna Pasanen (Winter Haven, Fla.), That's Incredible Award.
United States Hydrofoil Association: Shannon Pope (Wake Forest, N.C.), Male Athlete of the Year; Alison Goin (Loveland, Colo.), Female Athlete of the Year; Kevin Thayer (Canyon Lake, Calif.), Ambassador of the Year; and Justin Dietrich (Oro Valley, Ariz.), That's Incredible.
USA Wakeboard: Phil Soven (Longwood, Fla.), Male Rider of the Year; Meagan Ethell (Orlando, Fla.), Female Rider of the Year; Mike Ferraro (Orlando, Fla.), Coach of the Year; Adam Fields (Littleton, N.C.), Award of Merit; Hollie Waldrop (Orlando, Fla.), Award of Merit; Raimi Merritt (Belle Isle, Fla.), Award of Merit; Zane Schwenk (Winter Haven, Fla.), Award of Merit; Dan Levine (Madison, Wis.), Volunteer of the Year; and U.S. Wakeboard Team, Team of the Year.
Water Skiers with Disabilities Association: Connor Poggetto (Carmichael, Calif.), Male Athlete of the Year; and Katie Mawby (Grand Haven, Mich.), Female Athlete of the Year.
National Water Ski Racing Association did not present awards this year.