Ethan Shulda takes a leap off a kicker with a wake board at the 51st annual State Water Ski Show Championships July 23 in Wisconsin Rapids (Photo Courtesy of Lisa Neal).

Trio of performers garner accolades

By Jason Arndt

Entering the 51st annual Wisconsin State Water Ski Show Championships, all Ethan Shulda wanted to do was to have fun for Aquanut Water Ski Show team, which finished third in Division 1 on July 23 in Wisconsin Rapids.

Shulda’s fun, combined with his reported enthusiasm, led to his second consecutive Outstanding Trick Ski Award and a second place finish for freestyle jump.

“Winning the best trick ski was just unbelievable,” said Shulda, 16, of Twin Lakes. “I just know that I am coming up on my brother, he won it three times.”

According to Shulda, whose brother is Jordan, he entered the tournament relaxed and ready to leap.

“For just trick ski, I just wanted to go out there and have fun,” said Shulda, who attends Wilmot Union High School.

Shulda’s trick ski award came as no surprise to teammate Kailey Koehler, who noted Shulda’s strong work ethic.

“Ethan brings a lot of energy and enthusiasm to the team, he has put in a lot of hours on the team and worked really hard to get the award,” said Koehler.

Grace Gurda glides across the lake in a solo swivel ski performance.

Kailey Koehler, front, won the 2017 Jennifer Dibble-Woods/Michelle Cook Award for outstanding female skier at the tournament.

Koehler, Gurda lead the women
The Aquanuts garnered the best ballet line, courtesy of contributions from 26 women, according to an organization press release.

Koehler, meanwhile, came away with her third Jennifer Dibble-Woods/Michelle Cook Award for most outstanding female skier.

Koehler contributed as a barefoot skier, swivel ski and climbed pyramids for the Aquanuts.

Koehler remained humbled by her achievements.

“It feels great and it’s an honor to receive the award,” said Koehler, 21, an eventual senior at Concordia University Wisconsin in Mequon.

Koehler, originally from Wauconda, Ill., calls Lake Geneva home.

As Koehler added another piece of hardware to her large collection of ski achievements, Grace Gurda notched a top three swivel ski performance for the first time in her Aquanuts career.

Gurda, 17, who finished second, did not anticipate the honor after she placed 11th last year.

“I was not expecting it, it was a great feeling knowing my hard work paid off,” Gurda said.

The hard work came with a new set challenges in recent weeks, when lakes Mary and Elizabeth was under a slow no wake order after recent floods, causing the Aquanuts to postpone multiple ski shows.

“For the last two weeks, I have had to drive an hour to practice, the biggest challenge for me was to practice,” said Gurda, who lives in Twin Lakes during the summer, but is a permanent resident in Northbrook, Ill.

Koehler believes Gurda has the skills to succeed in swivel skiing.

“Grace is definitely up and coming,” Koehler said.

Gurda starts her senior year at Loyola Academy in Wilmette in the fall.

For the two women, their accomplishments were well-deserved, according to Shulda.

“Kailey and Grace did unbelievable, Kailey definitely deserved the best water skier award and Grace definitely deserved the swivel ski finish.”

Winning the tournament was Mad-City with 1,892 points while Rock Aqua Jays was a close second at 1,834.

The Aquanuts accounted for 1,731 points, nearly 300 ahead of the fourth place Aqua Skiers, which had 1,400 points.

As the state championships concluded, next on the Aquanuts’ agenda is the national tournament, which is set for Aug. 11-13 in Loves Park, Ill.

“We have nationals in two weeks, and we are hoping that we can compete well,” Koehler said.


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