Owen Wattenmaker is read to get the recognition he deserves. He has dedicated 18 years, a large wad of cash, and a lot of early mornings to his craft….all for an end result, that doesn’t really count.
“They announce who the eligible teams are for nationals and they skip right over us,” Wattenmaker says while conversing about the USCSA Regionals when announcing which teams qualify for nationals. Though the CU USCSA Team has consecutively placed in one of the top positions in the Rocky Mountain Conference, they still can’t qualify for nationals. Since 1999, when the student-run team was established, CU’s “B Team” has excelled and produced skiers with remarkable race times. The ineligibility factor puts an early halt on the potential for many of these athletes, and is set in place because CU also has a varsity NCAA ski race team of 12 elite athletes. Since the region only wants one “team” representing CU on a national level, they don’t allow USCSA skiers from Boulder to compete.
Although, the Rocky Mountain Conference Board of Directors does allow two USCSA skiers to come as representatives, which Owen Wattenmaker has been eligible for the past three years. Though, he can’t actually be considered a legitimate part of the competition. When it comes time to announce the winners, his times are purged from the end results.
In moments like these, Owen says he feels that “it doesn’t even matter at the end of the day if we can’t go prove ourselves on the national stage then why do we go through all the time and money?”
Paul Rozsypal started the USCSA team at CU and has been advocating for 17 years to allow his team to compete nationally, “It’s disappointing. Why would you leave them out just because we’re part of an NCAA school? I don’t feel like that’s any sort of reason to disregard a good athlete.”
The year after year denial may also be out of fear that a self-funded CU racer would beat out an NCAA athlete with a full-ride scholarship, putting the opposing teams funding at risk. Although the team has not yet been able to push past the red tape, with more big-name universities taking note of CU’s advocacy and attempting to start their own secondary teams, their conversations with the USCSA board are certainly not over.
To keep up with CU’s USCSA Ski Team’s success, check out their website.