A District 117 principal won a gold medal for Team USA this summer at the 2016 World Over 35 Waterski Championships in Spain.
Water skiing has always been a big part of Kelly Zoellner’s life. Zoellner fell in love with the sport at the age of five, thanks to the guidance of her father and frequent trips to Lake Decatur.
“I loved being out there at the lake during the summer. There were like 18 families out there and my sister and I were the youngest. We had dinner out there and traveled to tournaments on weekends. I tried to progress along with the kids who were older than me and keep up with my dad. I didn’t realize how good I was, compared to kids who were my age, until I got to high school,” says Zoellner.
In the years to follow, Zoellner would place in regional and national competitions and even earn a spot in her first international competition at 17 years old.
Zoellner says she drew plenty of collegiate scholarships, but knew she wanted to attend the University of Louisiana at Monroe, since she knew a number of skiers who attended the school already.
Zoellner stayed at the University of Louisiana at Monroe for a year and half, then transferred to Millikan University so she could be closer to her family.
As for her teaching career, Zoellner got her first educational job in 2001 and worked her way up the ranks to South Elementary Principal, the role she’s held since 2014. Having the summers off has allowed Zoellner to improve her skiing skills and teach young skiers the proper techniques of the sport.
Zoellner explains the intense qualifying process for the World Championships.
“You have to be ranked top 15 in your division, based on the World Ranking List. They select the best 35 year old man and woman, 45 year old man and woman and 55 year old man and woman. The best of what is left is selected as the last two on the team. I was selected as the eighth person in. There were five women and three men on Team USA. I was only able to get to the finals in jump, which i won,” says Zoellner.
Zoellner competed against the top skiers from 15 other countries, including Canada, Mexico, Argentina and France.
Now that she has a gold medal and earned the top ranking in her division for the jump event, Zoellner is gearing up for the 2018 World Games.
Click below to hear the interview with Zoellner.