SYRACUSE — Growing up, Carolyn (Smith) Baker and Cathy (Smith) Lemberg spent much of their time skiing the waters of Lake Wawasee.
Their practice time paid off in the long run, as both won numerous tournaments and championships and still have boxes of trophies in storage to prove it. In 2010, they were inducted into the Indiana Water Ski Association Hall of Fame.
Now, they are looking forward to another honor, as they will be among Kosciusko County’s 22 torchbearers in the Indiana State Bicentennial Torch Relay.
Baker and Lemberg grew up along Lake Wawasee, in a two-bedroom house their father built in the 1930s. The girls would practice on homemade ski courses, first behind a borrowed boat, then eventually behind their own 1965 Ski Nautique, which they said was the first fiberglass boat on lake Wawasee.
Their first tournament was the 1963 Indiana state tournament in LaPorte, where Baker remembers placing third in the girls’ jump and first in mixed doubles. She went on to become the girls’ and women’s overall state champion from 1964-1967. She placed seventh in the jump division in the 1966 nationals, held in Minneapolis, Minn.
Years later, she was overall women’s senior division champion in the 1980 Indiana State Tournament.
Lemberg recalled being a part of the “three-girl jump,” along with Baker and mutual friend, Jackie Thomas. Slalom was Lemberg’s specialty, she said, and she was the women’s state champion in 1971.
The girls were also part of the Wawa Show Skiers and, later the Webster Ski Bees, performing in shows around the area on Lake Wawasee, Webster Lake, Camelot and Condonway.
Though Lemberg and Baker are both grown up with families of their own, they still live very near each other. They have passed their love of water skiing down through the generations and some of their grandchildren now enjoy the sport.
Lemberg’s daughter, Baker’s niece, Nikki Harter, nominated both women for the torchbearer honor. While both knew something of the nomination, they did not know they had been chosen until their letters arrived in the mail from the Kosicusko County Bicentennial Committee. Lemberg found hers first.
“I called (Baker) right away and said, did you get your mail yet?”
While plans for the torch relay are not finalized, Lemberg and Baker hope they can ride in a boat behind a vehicle, taking turns holding the torch. The relay is set to come through Kosciusko County Thursday, Sept. 29. Baker and Lemberg believe their leg of the relay will likely be towards the end, as Syracuse is the torch’s last stop.