By Ann Patton
Academy Spirit staff
The Academy’s parachuting team is on solid ground again after competing in the U.S. Parachute Association’s national championships Oct. 12 – 25 at Skydive Spaceland outside Houston.
Coach Bill Wenger said the Academy’s teams performed well and broadened their jump expertise.
“The teams all did an outstanding job and, more importantly, learned a lot from many national and world champions,” he said. “For the cadet teams, this is a great preparation for the upcoming collegiate nationals.”
Academy teams competed in the intermediate division of the four-way competition. Thirty-three teams total competed in the four-way.
The all-cadet team Air Force Epic finished in fourth place and included team members Cadets 1st Class Gabriel Guzman, Cameron Rochelle, Joseph Brundidge, Justin North and videographer Tech. Sgt. Joseph Valente.
Air Force Grove came in 10th and included Cadets 1st Class Ryan Martelly, Lauren Franks, Christopher Yuen, Alicia Bouges and videographer Tech. Sgt. Randall Sole.
The staff team Air Force Raptor came in seventh and included Capt. Edward Walker, Steve Archuletta, Chad Henderson, Michelle English and videographer Tech. Sgt. Kenny Kendrick.
In style and accuracy, Coach Wenger and Marty Jones with the 98th Flying Training Squadron earned slots on the U.S. national team in world competition next September.
In the four-way even jumpers exit the aircraft at 10,500 feet and perform as many maneuvers as they can in 35 seconds. The maneuvers are designated before the start of competition.
Cadet North said he was more than satisfied with the team performances.
“I thought the team did exceptionally well. All of our hard training for the past 18 months paid off, and we flew some of the best dives we have ever flown,” he said.
Cadet Franks agreed.
“As a team, our goal was to perform well for the level we knew we were capable of and to do well against the other military teams in our division,” she said. “I think we could say we had accomplished those goals by the end of the meet.”
Coach Wenger noted the cadet teams had slow starts but stepped up performances later on.
“Our best performance was probably one of the later jumps,” Cadet North said. “Everything just clicked, and the dive went very fast.”
Cadet Franks credited videographer Sergeant Sole for his solid support.
“He did a great job videoing and make sure the only busts were our fault, not his.”
She pointed out the team completed a steady performance despite having not jumped together for a month before nationals, and the team work was solid.
“We all had input on how to make the dives the best possible but no one raised their voice or lost their temper, which can be hard to do in such a stressful environment. Most of all, we encouraged each other and didn’t get down,” she said.
Cadet North also said the pressure of competing nationally failed to change the nature of the Academy’s teamwork.
“If anything, it improved our teamwork,” he said. “It was displayed in our preparation for the jumps as well as the recovery from some of our weaker jumps,” he said.
The teams also enjoyed some fun. When wet weather grounded competitions, Cadet North said skydivers got together for “a good, old-fashioned touch football competition.”
Cadet parachutists are now eyeing the number one spot at the USPA National Collegiate Parachuting Championships coming up Dec. 12 through Jan. 2 at Skydive Spaceland and its stiff competition.
“This year the competition in the four-way event is tougher than ever,” Coach Wenger said and pointed out Virginia Tech and the U.S. Military Academy, based on their performance at the USPA nationals, are going to be tough to top in performance.