Senior Matt Bettencourt and graduate student Matt Dummer competed at the National Collegiate Water Ski Association’s All-Star Tournment this past weekend at Sky Lake in Chico. Bettencourt placed 12th in the slalom out of an outstanding field of the best collegiate water skiers in the nation. Dummer, after one of his performances was not counted, finished 40th.
“It’s really fulfilling,” Bettencourt said of his performance. “I knew I’d have to improve this year, so I trained hard over the summer.”
It was a fitting way to end his career at UCSB. As president of the club for the past two years, Bettencourt has led the program both on and off the water. Besides the organization of weekly practices involving the two and a half-hour drive to Lake Naciemiento in Monterey County, Bettencourt anchored a solid men’s slalom team that included fellow seniors Stephen Deem and Wes Smith. He was also in charge of raising enough money to purchase a boat in accordance with NCWSA rules that stipulate how old a boat can be when competing.
UCSB, which has to contend with the upper tier of the western region of the highly competitive NCWSA, finished the bulk of its spring schedule in April by placing sixth out of 12 teams. Those numbers are not surprising: The perennial top five schools all have local lakes within easy driving distance. With the addition of nearly 20 new members to the club, though, Santa Barbara looks forward to closing that gap.
“I think things will pan out well next year. They just need to keep practicing,” Deem, who is also a club officer, said.
While finishing in the middle of the pack is never satisfactory, the Gauchos can put their performance into perspective by looking at their laundry list of injuries from this year. In the beginning of the fall season, the team was hit by a string of injuries in the men’s squad. Santa Barbara managed, despite the injuries, only to have the best female water skier in the program, Ashley Cooley, tear her Achilles tendon in the beginning of spring.
“That was definitely the low point of the season when that happened,” Deem said.
Still, Santa Barbara finished strong with the team finishing third at Ironwood Ski Ranch in Kern County in the fall and fourth in the spring.
“It was a pretty good year. We had great turnouts to all our events, the weather was great and a lot of people had personal bests this year. I’m definitely going to miss the chance to be out on the lake with all my friends from the team,” Deem said.
“I’m going to miss all the people on the team, being able to hang out with them and do something we all love doing. We shared a common passion,” he said.
Though the loss of these three seniors will hurt, Bettencourt is confident that the program won’t miss a step.
“Competition-wise, we’ll be okay. The slalom team will need to step up, and I’m confident they will,” he said. “The women will do very well next year after a tough season, and that’s going to be a huge boost to our team. As long as people step up, we’ll be fine.”