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Ten-year-old McCuen captures gold at Western Regional

A local 10-year-old girl made a big splash at the 2011 Western Regional Waterskiing Championships recently.

Sams Valley resident Kaitlyn McCuen, who will be a fifth grader at Sams Valley Elementary, captured first place in the Girls 1 Slalom competition at Bell Acqua Lake in Rio Linda, Calif., on July 21.

Slalom water skiing means only one ski is used. The special boards have two plates, a front boot and either a toe plate, open binding or another binding (similar to the front binding) behind the main one. Both feet point forward, with one behind the other. In tournaments, a course is set up with buoys. Water skiers are expected to navigate through and around six buoys using only one ski. A competitor's score in based upon the number of successful buoys cleared, the speed of the boat and the length of the rope. The shorter the rope and the faster the speed adds difficulty to the aquatic challenge.

The minimum starting speed at the G1 level is 151/2 mph and boats reach speeds of 30.2 mph.

McCuen's best effort at regionals was one buoy at 30 mph with 15 feet of rope off. She received a score of 55 and gained 1,178.40 points for her display. Brooke Van Kampen was second (42.00 score, 988.60 points) and Chloe Minard third (9.50 score, 375.60 points).

Six girls competed in the G1 slalom.

For her success, McCuen received a gold medal and qualified for nationals in Wilmington, Ill. She did not make the trip.

"I couldn't justify spending $3,000 to go," said Joe McCuen, Kaitlyn's dad. "You only get one chance, and if you miss a boey or entrance or exit or fall, you're done."

McCuen began skiing when she was 4 and transitioned to a single ski when she was 6. She began competing in novice tournaments when she turned 7.

McCuen, who trains at a private ski lake in Eagle Point, placed third at regionals last season. She was ranked first in G1 throughout the year and graduated to G2 after her performance in Rio Linda.

Last weekend, McCuen participatd in her first G2 tourney, securing second place at the Sunrise Slalom event in Redding, Calif.