Parents of youth hockey players know of the commitment needed during a season, especially those early morning drives to freezing ice rinks. It seems endless.

But Kevin Jack’s parents kept driving their son, even after hockey season. Kevin not only wanted to play on the ice, but on the water as well, as a water skier.

That meant when hockey finished, Steve or Joyce Jack transported Kevin from their Windham home to Kingswood Lake in New Hampshire for lessons.

“They are the biggest reasons for my success,” Kevin Jack said of his parents.

And successful he is.

While Jack loves hockey, his career on ice basically ended at Cheverus High.

But on the water, Kevin Jack is a national champion.

Jack, 24, was one of the winners at the National Water Ski Championships last month in Wilmington, Ill. Jack took first place in the Trick Ski competition of the Men’s 1 Class.

A water ski champion from Maine?

Maybe the thought of a Mainer winning was difficult to comprehend, because the official score sheet listed Windham, Fla., as Jack’s hometown.

Actually, Jack said the confusion was mixing up his hometown with his current address, which is in Lakeland, Fla.

Jack graduated from Florida Southern College (on a water ski scholarship) in Lakeland, with a degree in education. He’s a fourth-grade teacher at North Lakeland Elementary.

“I love it,” Jack said.

Occasionally, Jack will show his students videos of his maneuvers. The 9-year-olds will look at their dressed up teacher and then watch the shirtless young man on the video, doing flips and twists. They shake their heads.

“That’s not you, Mr. Jack,” they tell him.

Jack has finally convinced his students that their teacher is the one on the YouTube videos.

Jack began water skiing when he was 8, after watching a man water skiing on Highland Lake, near the Jacks’ home. The skier, Dave Robbins, gave Jack lessons.

The young Jack, an athlete who played baseball and handball along with hockey, took to water skiing right away. Eventually, he graduated to professional lessons from Bob McGraw in Brooksfield, N.H. Jack began competing when he was 13.

“I’ve been doing this for so long, you can see if there is potential by the way they first ride and how they implement what they are taught. You tell them to do something and they actually can do it,” McGraw said. “We saw that in Kevin.”

“And he has a work ethic. It takes time on the water and he made that commitment. Skiing in 50-degree weather, in the wind, in the rain. And you have to resign yourself that it’s going to take 100 falls before you learn some things.”

Jack persisted, sometimes traveling to New Hampshire four times a week. He has become McGraw’s third national champion. The other two were brothers from Andover, Mass.

Jack graduated from Cheverus in 2005 and enrolled at Florida Southern, one of the pioneers in college water skiing (over 90 schools now compete in the National Collegiate Water Ski Association).

After college, teaching seemed a perfect fit for Jack’s skiing. In the summer, he competes in six or seven tournaments around the country, while also giving lessons.

One trick that Jack can definitely teach is the “Half-Jack,” a move he designed and is now approved in competitions. In the move, Jack begins skiing backward and then flips and twists, landing forward.

“I was at a tournament, standing in a group of kids, they were talking about tricks,” said Jack. “They didn’t know who I was. One kid said ‘I tried a couple of Half-Jacks. It seemed impossible.’ I liked that.”

In the national championships, Jack entered as the top seed, just ahead of 18-year-old Dylan Schaffer of Alabama.

Schaffer fell on his third flip. Jack followed, planning “the same run I’ve been working on for about a year.”

He started with a Half-Jack and then nailed six more flips.

And suddenly, the kid who grew up in Windham, playing hockey in the winter and water skiing in the summer, was standing on the top tier during the medal ceremony.

Kevin Jack, from Windham, Maine, national water ski champion.

Staff writer Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

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Twitter: ClearTheBases