You've got a Friend in Pennsylvania

President: Mark Combs
Council Representatives: Barry Sangrey, Doug Robbins

The Keystone State Water Ski Federation was founded in 1968, and as a result, competitive water skiing in Pennsylvania has flourished ever since. The state of Pennsylvania has numerous public waterways that have constant recreational skiing activity. From that has emerged a rich history of competitive water skiers, and officials that have shaped water skiing in not only Pennsylvania, but the Eastern Region and the nation.

Sixteen water ski clubs exist in Pennsylvania that are currently active within the AWSA. Four of those sponsored tournaments in 1996. As is the trend around the country, tournaments are migrating from clubs on public waterways to private controlled conditions ski sites. The last ski club in Pennsylvania that exists on a public waterway that continues to host three event tournaments is the Reading Water Ski Club. The Pennsylvania State Championships have taken place there for the last four years. Few clubs have the organization and qualified manpower that the Reading Water Skiers possess. Every last variable that they have control over is organized and executed flawlessly during their tournaments. I have traveled throughout the country to numerous states, sites and ski clubs, and every year I can't help but be impressed. This club has hosted in its storied history several Pennsylvania State Championships, the Mid-Eastern Water Ski Championships, as well as the Eastern Regionals. Jump guru Barry Sangrey skis here, and has started quite an epidemic infecting almost the entire ski club with the "jump bug". There are more jumpers per capita in this ski club than anywhere, according to young stunt pilot Evan Van Gilson. The Reading tournament site is a jumpers dream, with plenty of room for a counter cut, a fast ramp, and fast water.

Darrel Helms bought a private lake minutes from the Reading Water Ski Club. Along with some of the other skiers in that club, they are hoping to organize a club and build that into a three event tournament site. If things go according to plan, it will be the first private, controlled conditions tournament water ski site in Eastern Pennsylvania.

In the last 15 years, four regional championships have been hosted at sites in Western Pennsylvania. The Eastern Regionals were at Dave's Pond in 1981 and 1987, and Burns Lake in 1991 and 1992. Both sites continue to host tournaments annually. Dave's Pond is the only three event site in Western Pennsylvania. Dave's Pond was one of the first man made tournament water ski sites not only in the Eastern Region, but the country. In 1978, Dave Strong literally dug a hole in the ground custom made for tournament water skiing. Thanks to three springs, it filled with water. Shortly after the site was completed, Dave revived the Pennsylvania State Championships. Almost 20 years have passed, and tournaments at Dave's Pond have seen several state and regional records, and a lot of laughter and fun. If you happen to ski at Dave's Pond, keep an eye on #5 ball. It has been known to disappear as a skier approaches it.

Burns Lake is the home of John & Terry Burns. John is the 1996 Eastern Regional Men 3 slalom champion and the regional record holder in Men 3 slalom. Terry was the 1995 Eastern Regional Women 3 slalom champion. John and Terry Burns have made Burns Lake exclusively a slalom site since the 1992 Regionals. That is, until Devon Burns decides to take to the friendly skies on a pair of jump skis. Burns Lake offers near perfect conditions to slalom skiers seeking maximum performances. Tournaments there are always relaxed and enjoyable, and the catered lunch is always a treat. Here, John Burns can usually be found experimenting with all sorts of fins, wings, power sticks, or any other slalom performance enhancing gadget. Terry Burns can usually be found trying all these neat gadgets!

The Port Indian Water Ski Club hosted a slalom tournament this season. This club is where Bill & Marie Baker ski. Paul & Sarah Allebach, and Dale & Judy Stevens (Stojanovich) ski here also. Port Indian is active in the Barefoot venue of the AWSA. Dale Stevens has driven the Barefoot Nationals, and Port Indian has hosted several barefoot tournaments in the past. Port Indian was another jump mecca in Eastern Pennsylvania a few years back.

In Central Pennsylvania, the West Branch Water Ski Club is currently being revived, as is the site in Williamsport. The club was active in hosting three event tournaments annually, but lost it's lease on the lake. The lake was recently sold to Drew & Christianne Wright, who ran the ski club in the past. In 1988, they hosted the Pennsylvania State Championships.

From the state of Pennsylvania, several regional record holders, and regional and national champions have emerged. Don Blank, Maggie Jorden, "jumping" Joe DelSignore, Brian Keller, Sherron Beck, Steve Mileski, Vicki Sarig, Brad Norford, Bill Baker Jr., Dr. Don Henderson, Paul Bellucci, Kathy Robbins, Kelly Hunt, Barry Sangrey, Skip Dunlap, John Burns, Terry Burns, Ginger Jorden, and Bob Hughes. I apologize if I am forgetting anyone. Ginger Jorden made the 6 person USA Junior Team, and won Women 1 National jump titles in 1994, and 1995. Bob Hughes represented the USA twice at the Junior world competition level, winning slalom, trick and overall titles. Pennsylvania skiers that excel at all levels are a source of pride to our State Federation.

Pennsylvania has produced several officials that have made invaluable contributions to the Eastern Region. At the same time, they have provided leadership to their local clubs and our State Federation. Senior Judge and past EVP, Tiny Richards, his wife & Senior Scorer Judy, could be seen working the Regionals & Nationals year after year. Tiny has passed away, Judy continued to score and has since remarried. Past EVP, current National Director, Pan Am and Senior Judge Bill Baker, and his wife and Senior Scorer Marie are familiar faces to any skier who competes in the Eastern Region. They have traveled all over the world to make tournaments go. Current National Director and Senior Driver, Paul Allebach has driven Regionals and Nationals numerous times, his wife Sarah is always working as a Judge at tournaments right along with him. Senior Scorer and past EVP, Nancy DeJesus, and her husband and Senior Judge Joe DeJesus are annually active scoring & judging the Regionals & Nationals. One of the best three event drivers in the country resides near Reading. Ed Llewellyn drove Regionals in the mid eighties, and several skiers are lobbying for him to become active at that level once again. Past EVP, current National Director, and Pan Am and Senior Judge, Rick Norford is originally from the Philadelphia area. Ralph Hall got his start as a driver and judge as one of the Reading Water Skiers. Rege Mahoney was one of the founders of the Keystone State Federation, he is active as a Senior Judge at the Regionals & Nationals as well as numerous local tournaments. Joe Deltondo was titled the grandfather of the Golden Triangle Water Ski Club, and works as a Senior Judge at the Regionals & Nationals. Again, please forgive me if I forget anyone. So many dedicated people have made so many invaluable contributions. It is nearly impossible to mention them all especially skiers and officials " before my time".

Often overlooked are the many fine officials locally. Virtually all of the active ski clubs that host tournaments annually have officials within the club. They are the folks who are unrecognized at the tournaments: our assistant and regular rated scorers, judges, drivers, and safety directors. They ease pressures of getting officials from outside the clubs to host a tournament for tournament sponsors.

A characteristic of Pennsylvania tournaments is that you'll always find our neighbors skiing right along with us. Many New York, Maryland, Ohio, West Virginia, New Jersey, and Delaware skiers travel over the Pennsylvania border for good skiing, good friends, competition, and fun.

Gail Gordon, is the President of the Keystone Federation, Dan Baumgart is the Vice President, and Susan Nichol is the Secretary / Treasurer. They are new leadership for the federation and have challenges ahead. As we know, tournament entry numbers are declining, and the number of skiers in the junior divisions are also dwindling. The Federation officers are already meeting some of these challenges. Barry Sangrey, Gail Gordon, and the Reading Water Skiers successfully ran a junior development clinic in last year.

Presently, times are turbulent for three event tournament skiing, and the AWSA. My hope is that a lot of these problems we are experiencing are cyclical, and at some point trends will reverse and participation will again steadily increase. The future will bring changes. Pennsylvania is blessed with many dedicated and enthusiastic people that shape the sport as we know it. Like any organization, our people are our greatest resource. Based on our rich history, we will be up to the task to meet all our future challenges.

- Doug Robbins