“We will definitely have a target on our back, especially since we’ve won three years in a row,” Tim Cullen, president of the Rock Aqua Jays, said. “A lot of teams are going to want to stop us from winning four years in a row, but it’s a good spot to be in. We relish the idea of being the target. It’s a challenge.”
The Aqua Jays will host the 40th annual Division I National Show Ski Tournament Friday through Sunday, Aug. 8 through Aug. 10, at Rock Aqua Jays Stadium in Traxler Park in Janesville. The Aqua Jays are scheduled to perform at about 7:30 a.m. Saturday. Cullen said he hopes many of the team’s fans will come out to watch them perform.
Fourteen teams from throughout the Midwest are expected to participate in this year’s tournament. Cullen said many of the teams will present a challenge to the Aqua Jays.
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“There will be a lot of good teams. It definitely will be a good event,” Cullen said. “There’s some teams that can do things that we can’t do, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re better than us. They just perform differently than us. We just have to compete differently to pull off the victory.”
This will be the 25th time that the Aqua Jays have hosted the national water ski tournament. Tom Cullen, chairman of the Division I National Show Ski Tournament Committee, said teams bid to host the tournament each year. He said the committee tries to select a location several months in advance to give the host team enough time to prepare. Tom Cullen said RAJ Stadium is a quality location for the tournament.
“It’s on the Rock River. There’s walls near the river, so there’s not many issues with the wind. There’s dams nearby, so there’s not many issues with boats,” Tom Cullen said. “It’s a very good site to host the tournament.”
Tim Cullen said several renovations recently were made to the stadium to accommodate more people.
“We’ve increased capacity by adding 500 seats. It’s a nice structure. We’ve also made it more handicapped accessible. We’ve done some changes to get more people to come out,” Tim Cullen said. “We’ve reconfigured our beer garden to increase it in size to have more of a viewing area for people to enjoy.”
Tom Cullen said the tournament is well attended each year.
“We get 4,000 to 5,000 people who attend each of the three days,” Tom Cullen said. “The individual competition is on Friday, and the team competitions are on Saturday and Sunday. We give each team 20 minutes to prepare prior to their performance, and we give them 10 minutes after their performance to get everything taken down. So about every hour an a half, people should be able to see a new team perform.”
Christine Rebout, executive director of the Janesville Convention and Visitors Bureau, said hosting the national show ski tournament helps attract many people to the Janesville area.
“It brings in water ski teams from throughout the country, and they bring their families and their sponsors. Many people from outside the area come, as well,” Rebout said. “We see a high level of people coming to this event. Our hotels and restaurants are filled with people from outside the area and throughout the country.”
Rebout said hosting the tournament also is an opportunity to attract more regular visitors and businesses to Janesville.
“It’s an opportunity for people who may have not been to the Janesville area before to visit the community,” Rebout said. “Maybe some people will come back and visit. Maybe some business owners will attend and will realize that Janesville is a good place for their business. It’s an opportunity to showcase Janesville.”
The Aqua Jays have won the national championship 18 times, as well as the world championship, Wisconsin state championship and the Mercury Open Tournament. Tim Cullen said many of the team members have competed in tournaments in other countries.
“It’s a great experience. There’s a lot of teamwork. Not many people can say that they’re a part of a national championship water ski team,” he said. “It’s a good, quality sport. I’ve been to China three times, and other members of the team have been to China several times. Not many people think that competing in water skiing can take them to that level.”
The Rock Aqua Jays currently has about 177 members. Tim Cullen said the team always could use more participants.
“We would love to have more people,” he said. “They don’t have to have any prior skiing experience. If they’re under 16 years, they have to join with their family. We accept people from all walks of life. If people want to be a part of a national championship team, they are welcome to join.”
The Rock Aqua Jays also will host the World Water Ski Show Tournament, which will be held Sept. 12 through Sept. 14.
Team running order
Begins at 7:30 a.m. each day
Saturday, Aug. 9
Rock Aqua Jays, Janesville, Wis.
Wonder Lake Ski Team, Wonder Lake, Ill.
Twin Cities River Rats, Minneapolis, Minn.
Aquanuts Watershow, Twin Lakes, Wis.
Mad City Ski Team, Madison, Wis.
Blackwater Gamblers, Rock Island, Ill.
Ski Broncs, Loves Park, Ill.
Chippewa Lake Ski Team, Norton, Ohio
Sunday, Aug. 10
Arch Rivals, St. Louis
Five Seasons Ski Team, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Muskego Water Bugs, Muskego, Wis.
Badgerland Ski Team, Waukesha, Wis.
Webfooters, Fremont, Wis.
Beaverland Must-Skis, Beaver Dam, Wis.