2023 Collegiate Development

By Fallon Sheffield

2023 was the year of the Dirty South. From securing wins from both national-level collegiate tournaments to introducing a new team to the region to continuing our push for AWSA participation with our new Collegiate Summer Weekend program, we are proud of our athletes, leaders and volunteers who have helped make all of this possible. 

Winter Conference

Texas A&M University hosted our annual Winter Conference in February 2023, kicking off the season. A new board was elected, with Jackson Driggs being re-elected as the region Chair, Fallon Sheffield moving into the position of Vice Chair after her previous role as the region secretary, Carter Hooten was elected as Treasurer, and Molly George as Secretary. This board was a clean sweep of past and present University of Texas alumni. Our Athlete Advisory Council (AAC) introduced two new members, Ryan Schipper (ULM) and Zach Butterfield (TAMU), with Garrett Stallings acting as our returning AAC member and National AAC Representative. In addition to this, we were able to welcome new faces into the national committee roles, acting on behalf of the SCR. These individuals included Sage Pottbecker (ULL) as the SCR Awards Chair, Zoe Karageorge (TEX) as the SCR Marketing Chair, Aaron Davies (ULL) as the SCR Operations Chair, and Dylan Hammerbeck (TEX) as the SCR Membership Chair. For the first time ever, we got to have representation from Southern Methodist University with Markus Mortenson and Grace Higgins joining the discussion.

After spending the day preparing for another successful year of collegiate skiing, the TAMU officer planned a banquet where they honored the previous years award winners and newly elected board. Skiers got to mingle with their friends from other teams after a long hiatus since 2022 Collegiate Nationals. 


The legendary annual Polar Bear Tournament hosted by Texas A&M University at Stevenson’s Ski Ranch in Conroe, TX was the start to the Spring season. Southern Methodist University made their debut, showing up with impressive numbers and making an impression on every team. The region is still talking about Markus Mortenson’s helicopter off of the jump ramp on Sunday morning. 

Fleur de Ski was held in Lafayette, LA by the University of Louisiana - Lafayette, where teams were able to compete against each other for the last time before some had to strip their team identities to compete on the South Central team at the annual NCWSA All Stars tournament. For other skiers, their next collegiate tournament wouldn’t be until the start of the Fall Season. 

NCWSA All Stars was hosted in SCR territory, at the same site as our Polar Bear tournament and planned out by the Texas A&M team with Kristen Babiash as tournament director. Here, Stevenson’s Ski Ranch acted as home for the weekend as the best skiers in every region traveled to Texas to compete for a regional title. At the end of the tournament, the Dirty South came out on top and currently holds the NCWSA All Stars title, making the SCR the best regional team in the country. Additionally, more podium athletes came from the SCR than any other region. 

Collegiate Development

The SCR Collegiate Development program was first introduced in 2022 with the mission to increase AWSA participation from collegiate skiers and fill in the summer training gap. Many collegiate athletes do not have regular access to a ski site over the summer due to the disbanding of normal club operations at their corresponding universities. In 2022, four Texas ski-sites opened up their lakes to 32 SCR skiers. This year, the SCR was able to continue our collegiate summer weekends with the help of three different ski sites. 


Lakes of Katy; Katy, TX - May 11-14, 2023

One of our most dedicated officials, Kelvin Kelm, opened up his home to collegiate skiers this weekend. This weekend was a great All Stars warm up for our All Stars team, but was beneficial for everyone involved. Skiers who showed up on Thursday were able to get coaching from professional water skier Wade Cox, who made an appearance during his clinic tour across the U.S. On Friday, the clinic continued with coaching from professional water skiers Dominique Grondin-Allard, Zane Nicholson, Sondre Stalheim, Cade Stockstill, and other region favorites Austin Koldejcak and Nathan Kelm. The weekend led straight into a 3-event tournament organized by Kelvin Kelm, which acted as the first AWSA tournament that many of these skiers competed in. 

Bent Creek; Sherman, TX - June 3-4, 2024

The Stange and Butterfield families graciously opened their boats and property to the college skiers the weekend of June 3rd. Coaching was given by Stephanie, Griffin, and Parker Stange, and Bruce, Zach and Krista Butterfield. This event concluded with a sunset barefoot performance by Abby Hutton and Markus Mortenson. 

Stevenson’s Ski Ranch; Conroe, TX - July 15, 2024

The third and final collegiate weekend was hosted by Jade Hanson and Austin Kolodejcak, a couple who met on the A&M Water Ski team and has graciously supported the SCR since graduation. This allowed skiers to have a final chance to get some practice in before heading into the bulk of the AWSA season. 

The 2023 SCR Collegiate Development included a total of 11 past collegiate skiers, 20 current college skiers, and one potential collegiate skier. Out of the 32 total participants, 13 of them competed in the AWSA South Central Regionals and four of these were first time AWSA Regionals participants. Even outside of the SCR, one of these athletes competed in the AWSA Eastern Regionals for her first time upon her return home for the summer. This program also had six AWSA nationals athletes, two of which were first-time participants. Aside from the major  tournaments, 21 out of the 32 athletes participated in an AWSA tournament over the summer. For seven of these athletes, it was their first ever AWSA tournament. 

Team Growth

Both Baylor University and Southern Methodist University have impressed the region with their huge increase in athletes and team participation. After a short hiatus, Baylor has been on the rise since around 2020, shortly after the pandemic wiped out a fair amount of collegiate teams across the country. Since then, team leaders have been working hard to increase team membership and skill-level and it shows. 

Southern Methodist University has been a discussion for three years, but 2023 was the year they came to fruition. Making their introductory debut at Winter Conference in February, this team came in strong, impressing anyone who spoke with members. From Polar Bear until SCR Regionals, SMU was consistently increasing their numbers and have become a prime example of where true leadership can take a team. All of this is without even mentioning the backend efforts of the members, who have been scheming ways to find a practice lake and opportunities to get out on the water without the consistent access that many other teams have.