After the boat

Senior Sailor Maggie McElhinney will head to North Carolina following graduation

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— It didn't take long for Maggie McElhinney to make a good first impression on her future water-skiing teammates.

McElhinney, a senior at Steamboat Springs High School, recently visited the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, for which she will water-ski next season.

"We went out to supper and she came to one of our meetings," said Charlotte 49ers coach Robert Rhyne.

"She knew what she was talking about and she was real interested. She had plenty to add to the conversation. She was never just sitting there as a bump on a log, if you will."

McElhinney has been water-skiing since age 6, when her stepfather, Ed DeGroff, began taking her and her sister, Katie McElhinney, to Stagecoach Reservoir.

Katie is a junior at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, where she water-skis for the Bobcats.

Katie, who is currently studying abroad in South Africa, says her little sister has a bright future.

"She is a really talented athlete," Katie said. "I think she is going to love competitive water-skiing, but my best advice to her is to have fun."

Sports has always been in Maggie's blood. By age 6, she was on a local soccer team and already was a member of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.

This past year, she helped lead the Sailors girls volleyball team to the state playoffs. Maggie is now a starting outside defender on the Sailors girls soccer team.

She was recruited by UNC-Charlotte shortly after visiting the National Collegiate Water Ski Association's Web site, which has a national recruiting database.

Maggie didn't expect to get a response, she said.

But a couple of months later, she received a letter from Charlotte inviting her to join the team.

"It wasn't something I intended on," Maggie said. "It was kind of like a shock."

The letter informed Maggie the school would pay for her application fees and part of her water-skiing fees if she joined the program.

UNC Charlotte does not provide full scholarships for water-skiing.

Water skiing is considered a club sport at the university, though the 49ers face stiff competition in the South Atlantic Conference.

They compete against the Alabama Crimson Tide, the Georgia Bulldogs, the Duke Blue Devils and the North Carolina Tar Heels.

Brian Bradley, 49ers team captain, said collegiate water-skiing will allow Maggie an opportunity to make a lot of friends while surrounding herself in a competitive environment.

And though Maggie enjoys playing team sports, she says water-skiing is more of an individual challenge.

"It's just different," Maggie said. "I love team sports, but this (enables) you to do something for yourself."

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