Former Wallowa County resident makes huge splash in California

<I>Dan Valez/submitted</I><BR>Rick Swart skis around a buoy during the INT U.S. Championships last week in Bakersfield, Calif., on his way to winning the national men's novice title.

A former Wallowa County resident won a national water skiing championship last week in Bakersfield, Calif.

Rick Swart, 49, topped a field of 12 skiers to win the Men's Novice division at the INT (International Novice Tour) U.S. Championships at Ski West Village Oct. 11-14. It's the largest water sports organization in the country. More than 400 competitors from 17 states participated in the U.S. Championships in slalom skiing, wakeboarding, knee boarding and wake skating.

They earned the right to participate in the U.S. Championships by placing first or second in their respective divisions at the state level. Swart scored the winning run on Wednesday, with a full pass at 26 miles per hour, followed by three additional buoys at 28 miles per hour, with 15 feet off the rope. In winning the event, Swart also scored a personal best for the season. Swart failed to make a full pass on his second run, but still won the division because INT U.S. Championships scores are based on the better of two runs. His closest competitor was Bryan McClintock of Indiana, who made five out of six buoys on both runs. Jay Stewart of Washington was third.

Swart, former editor and publisher of the Wallowa County Chieftain, grew up in Enterprise and learned to water ski on Wallowa Lake. He moved to Nevada in 2004 and began skiing competitively in the INT league the following year.

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