Florida’s Fleck wins record 5th National Endurance Title.
Rough water abounds as biggest field in years delivers a slew of upsets. First ever Master National Endurance champion crowned.
Crandon, Wisconsin – A year after losing in the longest run in Footstock history and taking second, Pete Fleck showed the barefoot world why he is still the king of figure eights. After dominating the Footstock field for two days, Fleck beat a gutty Jon DeBelak for his record fifth National Open Championship in what turned out to be the longest run of the day-2 and ¾ eights.
And although seeing Fleck in the finals was a familiar site, this year’s tournament was the polar opposite of last year, as wind and waves pummeled the famed Peshtigo eight. Fewer than a dozen figure eights were recorded over two days, with most of them coming in the last 5 runs of the day on Sunday.
“It was brutal out there,” explained Tournament Director and 16th place finisher Jacob Weber of Crandon. “The waves were just relentless from the time you stepped off to the final turn coming into the site. The stretch from Chetek corner to the step-off area took out most everyone.”
Despite the less than stellar conditions, nothing could spoil the party for the former X-gamess Barfeoot Champ, Fleck who was the only man to never lose a run over the two day competition. Fleck also won the Senior National Championship over DeBelak.
Although Fleck’s domination and the rough water was the biggest story line of the championship, the other big story was the comeback of former Senior National Champ Jon DeBelak. Just a year after coming back from a horrific water ski injury that would have ended most skier’s careers, DeBelak showed why any discussion of the country’s best figure eighters has to include his name.
Having to work his way through the consolation bracket Sunday, DeBelak blew through the tournament’s top seeds, cranking off some of the grittiest figure eights anyone has ever seen, considering the conditions.
DeBelak also had to get past Crandon’s own Greg Fatla who’s 3rd place was the highest finish by a Crandon skier in the Open since Bucky Dailey won the National Title over a decade ago. And he had to best World Overall Barefoot Champ, Keith St. Onge of Orlando who took fourth.
The rough water wreaked havoc with the tournament’s top seeds, turning Sunday into a wide open field that favored the rough water specialists, many of whom are from Wisconsin. Veterans Mike Netzer, Steve Kazle, Luke Bruckner, Dan Ehlers, Joe Heilman and Bob Mahnke all made huge runs deep into Sunday afternoon. Two other Crandon skiers also had big finishes as James and Jacob Weber placed 10th and 16th respectively, showing the nation’s top endurance barefooters they will have to contend with these two in the Open division for a long time to come.
On the Junior’s side, Pierce Pluemer and Jake Wiedemeyer battled it out for the championship, with Pluemer taking the victory after a gutsy performance in the rough conditions. Issac Aukee and Derek Buchman rounded out the top four.
The Women’s National Championship came down to s step-off contest at the end. After Florida’s Lauren Lindeman missed her step-off it opened the door for Kristina Ruchti to face Footstock newcomer Alyssa Brooks. Having to beat her twice, Ruchti held on to make both her step-offs and take the women’s crown.
One of the most awaited championships of the weekend was that of the newly created Master’s Division for skiers 50 and older. 16 AARP members or soon to be members took the water to claim the first ever Masters National Championship and they didn’t disappoint. In the end, it was Footstock veteran Bob Mahnke taking out both Paul Elsen and Dave Hopkins to take the title.
Dave Seymour took home the Best of the Worst and Nich Ruchti won the costume contest skiing in a full clown costume.
Although the waves kept the runs a lot shorter, pounding the turns and the step-off area, it was a blessing to tournament organizers who last year pulled a record number of figure eights and barely finished before dark. The shorter runs helped organizers pull the tournament in record time, despite having a field that was 15% bigger than 2010.
“We had a huge jump this year in attendance with 164 registered skiers,” noted Registration Director, Angie Schaefer. “ We had a lot of new skiers in Juniors and Opens and the new Master Division was a huge addition as well. This was one of the biggest championship fields we have ever had. Thank goodness for the rough water.”
Rough water not only sped up the tournament but it wreaked havoc on some of the top seeded skiers. The biggest upsets coming when Open Champ, Marc Donahue of Indiana and JJ Link of Florida were both knocked out of the tournament early on. Leaving them out of the top 40.
“It wasn’t as much an endurance contest this year, as a survival contest,” laughed Tournament organizer Gary Mueller. “There are a lot of guys with sore necks this morning, who may be wondering why they put themselves through such punishment.”
Except of course for Open and Senior Champ, Fleck. He woke up with a great big smile on his face Monday morning, knowing he is now the winningest barefooter in Footstock history.
1st Pete Fleck (Florida)
2nd Jon DeBelak (Wisconsin)
3rd Greg Fatla (Wisconsin)
4th Keith St. Onge (Florida)
5th Luke Bruckner (Wisconsin)
6th Steve Kazle (Wisconsin)
7th Dan Ehlers (Wisconsin)
8th Mike Netzer (Wisconsin)
9th Bob Mahnke (Wisconsin)
10th James Weber (Wisconsin)
11th Ron Blouw (Michigan)
12th Joe Heilman (Minnesota)
13th Dom Gobbo (Illinois)
14th Jeff Asbach (Wisconsin)
15th Tim Camodeca (Illinois)
16th Jacob Weber (Wisconsin)
1st Pete Fleck (Florida)
2nd` Jon DeBelak (Wisconsin)
3rd Marc Donahue (Indiana)
4th Dan Ehlers (Wisconsin)
5th JJ Link (Florida)
6th Ron Blouw (Michigan)
1st Kristina Ruchti (Minnesota)
2nd Alyssa Brooks (Wisconsin)
3rd Lauren Lindeman (Florida)
4th Dawn Van Alstine )Wisconsin)