When LakeFest returns after a three-year hiatus to Lake Marble Falls on Aug. 7-8, Mallori Carroll will be there, decked out in her pink racing gear behind the wheel of her pro-modified division racing boat, “A Little More Therapy.”
Mallori, 27, has been churning the waters in speedboat races for 17 years now, having run — and won — her first competition at the age of 10 on her hometown lake in Marble Falls.
“I was scared, I was really scared,” she said. “Everyone tells you what to do, but you really don’t know or understand it until you’re at the line waiting to go.”
Unlike other sports in which athletes get plenty of practice time on a court, field, or track, drag boat drivers only get behind the wheel during competition. They learn by racing.
As of July 1, Mallori has raced “A Little More Therapy” six times. She and the crew are still learning the boat’s intricacies.
Racing runs in Mallori’s family. Her dad, David Carroll, is director of the Southern Drag Boat Association. The SDBA runs drag boat races, including LakeFest, which it sponsors in partnership with the Marble Falls/Lake LBJ Chamber of Commerce.
Prior to taking over the association, he also raced in competitions and is his daughter’s mentor. Competing for her dad’s team, David Carroll Racing LLC, Mallori earned her stripes the hard way, just like any other racer.
“I had to work my way up,” she said.
During her first six years of competition, Mallori raced at some of the highest levels, including two trips to the drag boat world championships at Wild Horse Motorsports Park in Phoenix. She competed at the worlds in 2005 and 2008 in the personal watercraft division.
When she became eligible for the boat division under International Hot Boat Association rules, Mallori yearned to compete at even higher levels in faster boats. She made a deal with her father: She could only advance to the next boat division after winning at her current level.
Following that rule, she continues to work her way through boat divisions, breaking into professional classes last year.
Unlike her previous open cockpit boats, her pro-mod features an enclosed capsule. Before racers can compete at that level, they have to be certified in a live demonstration below the water’s surface.
For her qualifying test in August 2020, Mallori was submerged in Lake Marble Falls in a blacked-out capsule.
“You can’t see a thing,” she said. “You just have to sit there and wait for the rescue divers to come and get you.”
She passed the test and is raring to race, despite that tinge of fear she feels when she climbs into a boat. That, she said, is a good thing.
“My dad always says the moment I’m not scared is when I need to get out of the sport,” Mallori said.
Much of Mallori’s strength comes from the team around her as well as her father. Boat tuner Gary Watson is one of the best at what he does. He’s in the team shop just about every day, especially during race season, working on the boats to get them prepped for the next race.
Currently, David Carroll Racing includes three boats and two personal watercraft along with 15 people, five of whom are drivers. Everyone works together in support of each other.
“It’s really a big family that travels together,” Mallori said.
After a year of competition without fans, racers say they are all that more appreciative of the cheers and enthusiasm they get from the shores as the 2021 season continues.
“We love spectators,” said Mallori, adding that Marble Falls fans are special. “Racing is really just a fun bunch of people who love to talk about racing, their boats, and everything around them.”
When Mallori isn’t racing, the Tarleton State University graduate works as an occupational therapist, which is where her boats’ names come from. Before “A Little More Therapy,” she raced “A Little Therapy.”
Racing, she said, is a hobby.
“You really don’t make any money at it,” she said with a laugh. “You do it because you love it and it’s fun.”
The thrill is intense but short lived. The entire race takes only 6½ seconds in a boat traveling 1,000 feet at 170 mph.
“I love going as fast as I can, and the faster the better,” she said. “I can’t wait until I win this class so I can move up again.”