By John Van Winkle
Academy Public Affairs
ROSHARON, Texas – An Air Force Academy senior cadet became the nation’s top collegiate parachutist over the holiday break, and gave up a scholarship in the process.
Cadet 1st Class Alicia Bouges of Cadet Squadron 33 and the Wings of Blue earned the most competitive collegiate competitor medal at the U.S. Parachuting Assocation’s 2009 U.S. National Collegiate Parachuting Championships, Dec. 28-Jan. 2.
Fighting high winds, low clouds and rain to the bitter end, Cadet Bouges was one of 103 college students from around the nation who wrapped up the collegiate nationals Jan. 2, the final day of scheduled competition. It’s the first time in recent memory that the meet went the full five days and competitive jousting for medals went down to the wire, according to the U.S. Parachuting Association.
Cadet Bouges was the team captain for the Air Force Groove team, which helped her earn the most competitive collegiate competitor medal and Istel Scholarship, which bestows $500 to be used for education. Because the cadet attends a military service academy, USPA won’t allow her to accept a scholarship for educational purposes, since her education is paid for by the Air Force.
“So giving it up wasn’t really a choice, but I did choose who to give it to,” Cadet Bouges. “I chose Virginia Tech Skydiving Club because I admire the dedication and hard work of the VT four way that won gold – the team that beat my four way – in the open class.”
Cadets aren’t exactly swimming in cash, but they don’t have any out-of-pocket expenses when it comes to parachuting for the Academy. Yet Cadet Bouges understands the additional resources traditional college students must devote in order to become a competitive parachutist.
“I am often running out of money as is, and my skydiving and training is paid for. I can’t imagine being a civilian student and supporting such a successful skydiving career they’ve had with so much time, energy, and money,” she said. “I hope that the money will be used to introduce new people into the sport or to help train a new four-way.”
Cadet Bouges is now in her final semester at the Academy. The behavioral sciences major hails from Lincoln, Neb., and will go on to a career as an airfield operations officer after she graduates in May.
Until then, she’s still got many more jumps ahead of her with the Wings of Blue.
Members of the Wings of Blue competed in all seven categories at the collegiate nationals. The categories focus on either mid-air formations by teams of two, four or six parachutists while in free-fall, or on landing accuracy for individuals or teams.
With status and medals at stake in seven disciplines and the majority of skydivers coming from three military academies- Air Force, Navy, and West Point-it was expected they would do pretty well, which they did. But the competition was not completely dominated by the military-Virginia Tech’s four-way formation skydiving team, bested the rest by a large margin, and Jeremy Foster and Cody Edgeworth, from the University of Houston and University of Chicago, took home the gold in two-way formation. The sport accuracy first place novice winner was Brad Carrender from Kansas State.
The Wings of Blue earned gold and silver medals in the team classic accuracy event. The accuracy is measured by how close to the center of the target the parachutist lands, with combined distances determining a team’s final accuracy rankings. The Air Force Lawn Darts team of Cadets 2nd Class Joshua LeMair, Kyle Yohe, Alexander Meyer and Eric Wallace took the gold, and the Air Force Groovy Tap-A-Tune team of Cadets 1st Class Bouges, Ryan Martelly, Lauren Franks and Chris Yuen took the silver. The Wings of Blue Air Force Epic Ace team of Cadets 1st Class Joseph Brundidge, Steven Azab, Cameron Rochelle and Justin North came in fifth.
In the four-way formation advanced category, the Wings of Blue took first and third places, while West Point took second place. Both academies tied for fourth place. The Wings of Blue’s gold-medal team was Air Force Impulse, comprised of Cadets Meyer, LeMair, Wallace and Yohe, and their bronze-medal team was the Air Force Eminence team of Cadets 2nd Class Michael Walker, Jesse Galt, Nolan Sweeney and Kyle Tomaszewski. Tying for fourth place with West Point was the Air Force Vendetta team of Cadets 1st Class Joshua Thomson and Robert Winchester, and Cadets 2nd Class Krystal Sweitzer and Whitney Gremillion.
In the six-way speed category, the Wings of Blue took first and second places. Earning the gold medal was the Air Force Silver team of Cadets Meyer, LeMair, Franks, Walker, Wallace and Yohe. Winning the silver was the Air Force Bliss team of Cadets North, Yuen, Bouges, Brundidge, Rochelle and Martelly.
In the four-way formation open category, Virginia Tech took first place, followed by the Air Force Groove team of Cadets Bouges, Martelly, Franks and Yuen.