Amy Cunningham
Local athlete Chris McGrew-Allen will have to dig deep to find leverage, balance, strength and finesse this week as she competes in the INT League Nationals Slalom competition in Groveland, Fla.
McGrew-Allen, Gardner, will be competing in the Third Class Division from Oct. 13 through Oct. 16.
According to the INT League Web site, the league weights divisions based on ability, providing a competitive setting for those at the same skill level.
Competitors in McGrew-Allen’s group are not separated by age or gender – although those classes do exist – instead they must perform at a certain level to advance to a new division.
“It’s weighted based on your ability and you move up to the next class as you improve,” said Ed Obermeier, McGrew-Allen’s training partner.  “The tournament style is a lot like golf in that you’re ultimately competing against yourself to see how well you can do.”
INT participants qualify for the championship by competing in a league tour and accumulating points throughout the season. McGrew-Allen qualified by participating in five events over the course of the summer in Garnett.  Division winners in each state are then invited to participate in the U.S. Championships.
Obermeier likes McGrew-Allen’s chances at nationals, saying that the 46-year-old skier and tri-athlete is both physically and mentally prepared to up her game.  He said that she has drive and talent, something necessary to compete at the national level.
“It’s the little things you do that make a big difference. You are playing tug of war with a boat and the boat always wins. You have to use the boat to propel you rather than you trying to propel yourself against the boat,” he explained.
“Skiing is more about leverage and balance than raw strength, you can’t out muscle the boat.  At some point, you’re pulling as hard as you can, muscling as hard as you can, what are you going to do to get better?  Ultimately you have to learn finesse to get to the next level in skiing.  Once you understand what those fundamental things are and how to incorporate them into your ski style that is when you become a really good skier.”
Just a few short years after joining the INT League McGrew-Allen has advanced through the levels, from novice, to fourth and most recently achieving third level status. She is hoping, after the competition, to bump up to the second level.
“Once you bump to a new class you go a faster speed and decrease the rope lengths,” she explained.  To the skier this means less reaction time and less time to get to the next buoy.
McGrew-Allen, 46, a multi-sport athlete, said that waterskiing has long been a part of her life.
“I started on my dad’s shoulders when I was about six at the Lake of the Ozarks,” she recalled.  “My sister Kelly and I used to spend our summers at the lake where my Grandparents, Henry and Vivian McGrew, had a house.  We would go out onto the lake all day with my grandfather and he would pull us skiing.  My grandmother would either be sunning herself on the raft or she would have friends over to drink cocktails.  My grandfather and I were ornery and he would pull me past and I would spray them with my skis.”
After high school McGrew-Allen joined the Navy where her love of water became a full time job, and in the process it fueled her interest in the sport.
More recently she joined the Pomona Lake Ski Club, where she has used her skiing talent as part of a ski show – performing pyramids, women’s ballet skiing, barefoot skiing, jumping and doubles acts.  It was a friend from the ski club who introduced her to INT League competition.
“It’s one of my passions, I’ve always wanted to compete,” said McGrew-Allen. “It’s a dream come true.”
McGrew-Allen, who is joined as part of the ski show by husband Kirk Allen, calls the sport a wonderful family pastime.
“My family is a big part of why I love this sport so much,” she exclaimed.  “It is just such a wholesome activity.  When you get out on the water and it is so serene, it’s like glass.  It’s so wonderful to be out with your family.”