Hailey Memery '25 is a teenager competing in a wild water sport dominated, almost exclusively, by men. That, by itself, would be a good story. But it keeps getting better with every championship...
The annual world championship in watercross, held the third weekend in July in Grantsburg, WI, is billed as the "fastest show on H2O." Watercross is, quite simply, snowmobile racing on water. Drivers compete on ovals courses or sprints (drag racing), and power their 800 pounds sleds across the water at speeds touching 90 miles per hour (speed is required to both win and avoid sinking).
At the 2019 world championships, the top couple dozen watercross racers in the country descended on Memory Lake Part in Wisconsin to compete for a world title. Hailey was 15 years old at the time. She was the only girl in her class. She was the only teenager in the competition. And in the drag racing event, she was the only person carrying the checkered flag around the lake in a victory lap.
"My victory definitely caused a stir. A lot of people were happy for me, but I know that afterwards, some were whispering 'we have to beat her.' They've been building sleds specifically to try to beat me."
Hailey was born in July, and she attended her first watercross event in August of that year. Her dad, Mike, competed at a high level, and watching him race snowmobiles in Lowville, NY (less than an hour from their home in Taberg, outside of Rome), was a routine family outing. Plenty of kids tagged along with the adults, and they generally entertained themselves on the shores, most oblivious to the action in the water. Not Hailey. She was hooked.
"My dad and I are best friends. I loved watching him, and I would get so excited when he raced. There's a pit area where they get the sleds ready. I would always go to the trailer and pretend that I was helping him."
Now it's Mike in the pit area helping Hailey. She started racing as a prodigy at 11, and quickly progressed from amatuer to semi-pro, then pro class in drag racing. Mike permanently got out of the saddle to mentor and coach Hailey (he's also her mechanic).
"I wouldn't be able to do it without him. He's my mechanic for everything. I ask him for hints and tips on how to get better. He's my biggest supporter."
Mike was there when Hailey won her first world title, and he'll be there next year when Hailey goes back to Wisconsin. Because of the pandemic, they haven't made the trip since 2019, but Hailey's earned points each year, and her drag sled is still undefeated. She'll compete in Lowville next month, and in October, she'll leave campus for a weekend and head to New Hampshire for the largest event on the East Coast. Before that, she's excited to start her sophomore year.
"I can't wait to get back to Siena. I think I really grew as a person last year. I've got amazing friends, including three great girls I'm living with. Watercross is always the 'fun fact' I share on campus during ice breakers."
When she graduates, the psychology major would like to pursue clinical psychology and work with adolescents. But for now, she plans to keep having fun on the water and chasing championships.
"I want to do it for as long as I can. It's just a part of who I am, and there's still a lot more I want to accomplish. I want to win a world championship in ovals. I just want to keep progressing and getting better in the sport."
Hailey Memery '25
Daughter vs. Father
Mike came out of retirement, just once, to test Hailey's oval sled in competition. Mike's primary goal wasn't to win, but when he got drawn into the same heat as Hailey, it was game on. One sprint, full throttle, and may the best Memery win. So what happened?
"Oh, I definitely won," said Hailey. "Dad might have gotten third. He did pretty well."
The torch has proudly been passed.