Rising stars set the bar high

PUSHING aside a busy social life in exchange for an intense training schedule is far from a dream for most 16 year olds, but for promising water skier Sean Stevens it's a sacrifice he's more than willing to make.

Somewhat of an adrenalin junkie, in his younger years Sean had his heart set on go kart racing, but when that didn't work out, he turned to skiing at age 10 and never looked back.

"Dad used to own a boat and race, and then when he had us three kids we were all pretty into it too," said Sean. 

"I started social skiing, and decided I wanted to compete, so Dad went out and bought a boat, and it all went on from there," he said.

This year is already off to a very promising start with Sean successfully defending his Under 16s title at the Australian Speed and Marathon Championships in January. 

At Echuca's Southern 80 in February, with father Chris Stevens in the driver's seat, Sean finished first in the Under 16s. 

The team placed second overall, breaking the Southern 80 Under 16s record.

Taking out the Mildura 100 Ski Race two years ago and finishing second last year, Sean said while there will be some "stiff competition from Sydney" he has high hopes for a first place position on his home track. 

"There is always that extra bit of pressure because all your family and friends are watching, but hopefully you prevail on the day, and there's a bit more excitement around it too."

Sean trains six days a week, including sessions with the Sunraysia Academy of Sport, a personal trainer and regular gym sessions, with the weekends scheduled for competitions or time out on the water. 

Ashlee Wakefield, another up and coming local skier had a natural ability from the start, trying out the sport just two years ago aged 11.

Recently Ashlee has been at the top of her game, taking out the Under 13s Victorian Summer Series, winning five out of five races. 

Not afraid to take on the boys, the budding skier often competes in their category, placing first in sub juniors along with partner Lachlan Op De Coul at the Southern 80 in Echuca.

This year's Mildura 100 Ski Race will be the first time Ashlee competes in the girls Under 13 Expert Class, after she races in Social Class on the Saturday. 

She's hoping to have a little more luck on her side this time around. 

"Last year was my first year in the Mildura 100," said Ashlee.

"I came second in the social class and we had boat problems in the expert class so we ended up coming fourth," she said.

There's no rest for the talented pair with Sean and Ashlee heading to New Zealand next week after being selected to compete in the Trans Tasman challenge on April 26.

Other promising young skiers in the 2014 Mildura 100 Ski Race include Lachlan Op De Coul who's currently dominating in the Under 13s, and Todd Clarke who's in just his second season and improving quickly.

Two newcomers Ryan Thomson and Oscar Baumgurtel are both racing behind their father's boat's, with Oscar following in his Dad's footsteps.

Jack Stevens who is moving out of junior ranks to the Under 19s, has been labelled the club's most improved skier for the season.

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