The 2009 USPA National Collegiate Parachuting Championships
USPA welcomed jumpers to the longest continually running skydiving competition in the U.S.—the USPA National Collegiate Parachuting Championships—December 28 through January 2. Skydive Spaceland in Rosharon, Texas, hosted the 52nd annual collegiate competition. It was the second year in a row that the DZ hosted collegiates, and more than 100 jumpers competed in a total of 12 categories encompassed by four disciplines (formation skydiving [FS], vertical formation skydiving [VFS], classic and sport accuracy).
Spaceland, having just hosted the USPA Nationals, had a first-class facility that was more than ready to handle the collegiate competition. The heated, indoor packing area was a welcome relief in the sometimes chilly December temperatures, and the DZ had two Twin Otters and a Caravan ready to fly the competitors at all times. The judges, led by Chief Judge John Goetsch, arrived the day before the event began. Goetsch’s get-it-done approach ensured that the competition ran smoothly—he saved the day when a computer problem cropped up at registration, and during the event he ensured that results were posted, without errors, as soon as the judges scored the jumps.
Adding to the excitement, CBS Sports came to town specifically to cover the collegiate nationals, and USPA worked with them to organize the production. CBS is planning to air the segment, which features 4-way FS and team accuracy, sometime in the spring.
Let the Games Begin
The first day of competition dawned with an overcast sky. The cloud base was only at 8,000 feet AGL, too low for most events, but provided plenty of altitude for accuracy. The classic accuracy event was up first with 11 teams and 45 individuals participating. (Most jumpers competed as a team, with their jumps counting toward both their team and individual scores.) Air Force Lawn Darts won gold for the team event, Air Force Groovy Tap-A-Tune took silver, and a U.S. Military Academy team, West Point Eenie Meenie Minie Moe, came in a close third.
This year, members of the military academies dominated classic accuracy events. Although the last round of individual classic accuracy was never completed due to weather, U.S. Air Force Academy competitor Alicia Bouges’ scores in the earlier rounds earned her a gold medal in the master class, with Christopher Gaulin and Joshua Cook, both from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, taking silver and bronze respectively. The USPA Competition Committee is still checking 52 years of records, but it appears that Bouges is the first woman to win gold in the master class of accuracy at collegiates. In the tightest race at this year’s competition, with only 3 cm separating the top three intermediate competitors, Aaron Greer of the U.S. Military Academy took gold, followed by U.S. Air Force Academy Cadets Mike Walker and Joshua LeMair. The U.S. Military Academy swept the novice event—Chester Haner took gold, Maxwell Love earned silver, and Brett Jack rounded out the medals spots with the bronze.
The first day of the event also saw two rounds of sport accuracy completed before rain stopped the jumping. For the first time, with 59 jumpers entered, sport accuracy competitors outnumbered classic accuracy competitors at collegiates. The weather never allowed the event to continue, but the rules allow for medals to be awarded with two rounds complete. In the master category, Orlando Zambrano from the U.S. Military Academy won gold, Byron Stuart from University of Minnesota took silver and Stephan Azab from U.S. Air Force Academy earned bronze. In the intermediate event, Ryan Nissim of the U.S. Air Force Academy won gold with a perfect score of zero (in accuracy, as in golf, low scores are best), Anabelle Lopez of the U.S. Military Academy went home with silver, and Robert Hemker of the U.S. Air Force Academy took bronze. In the novice class, Brad Carrender from Kansas State won the gold, and the U.S. Military Academy finished it off with Christopher Liggett taking silver and Pamela Baker the bronze.
Waiting on the Weather
On the second day of the event, the DZ was soaked. The skydivers made no jumps at all, and day three saw more of the same. With the clouds and drizzle continuing, the meet director called a competitors’ meeting to gather suggestions regarding future collegiate competitions, a summary of which he planned to present at the USPA Board Meeting in February.
On day four at 10:30 a.m., with only two days left and a lot of jumping to do, the weather finally cleared, and the 2- and 4-way FS events got rolling. Nine teams entered the advanced event and five teams vied for medals in the open category. The big question of the day was whether the team from Virginia Tech, VTSD, could stop the Air Force’s 13-year run as the USPA Collegiates Open Class 4-Way Champion. VTSD proved that they were the real thing with a strong lead after three rounds, before event organizers switched to sending up VFS teams, who jumped two rounds before the sun went down. The VFS 2-way event, in its third year at collegiates, had 11 teams in the mix. It was very competitive, and five teams vied for the top spot as the first day of VFS jumps wound up.
The 2-way FS event wrapped up on day four, and competitors did some fantastic flying. In round three, West Point Dance Machine scored 50 points, and spectators couldn’t believe their eyes. Then, West Point Prestige Worldwide scored 55 points, and that was after eight busts. If those two teams come back next year as a 4-way team, there is no telling how many points they will turn. When the final scores were tallied, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point swept the 2-way FS event—Dance Machine took gold, Prestige Worldwide earned silver and Bullge came in third for the bronze.
A Break in the Clouds
On day five, the last day of the event, the sun was shining, and the Otters were burning up the sky. Often, three events—4-way FS, 2-way VFS and 6-way speed—would be going at the same time. Some teams were entered in all three events. The meet director and Spaceland’s DZOs, the Boyd family, ran the competitors hard all day long in order to finish up all of the VFS and FS events, and they managed to get the last teams in the air just before the sun set.
Six-way speed, fashioned after the 10-way speed event at the USPA Nationals (in which scores are based on the time it takes a team to build a designated formation after exiting—the lower the score the better), has become very competitive. In fact, three of this year’s final scores would have beaten last year’s first-place team. Air Force Silver finished in first place in the three-jump event with an impressive score of 11.8 seconds on one of their jumps and a total score of 41.55 seconds. Air Force Bliss took silver, and The Stompin’ Toads (made up of Virginia Tech and U.S. Air Force Academy students) went home with bronze.
In the 2-way VFS event, the fourth and final round saw Enturbulators finish with a total score of 54 points, winning the gold by one point over Sky Monkeys. Krispy Robots earned the bronze with 49 points. It was a hotly contested event, with almost double the number of teams competing compared to last year.
At the end of the day, Air Force Impulse took the gold in 4-way FS advanced. They will be a team to watch in the future, as they ran away with the competition, scoring 92 points, 13 points more than the second-place team, West Point Vigilantes. Eminence scored 67 points, winning the bronze.
VTSD set a new standard and took the gold in the 4-way open category, scoring a total of 138 points over the six-round event, with 34 of those points scored in a single round. Air Force Groove took the silver and West Point Apocalypse the bronze.
Bouges from the Air Force Academy was selected for the highest honor awarded at the USPA Collegiates, Most Competitive Collegiate Competitor. Bouges, who took the gold in master accuracy and 6-way speed, and silver in team accuracy and 4-way open, was selected based on the number of events entered, her placement and overall sportsmanship. The honor was accompanied by the Jacques Istel Scholarship Fund Award, a $500 stipend to be used for education. Since Bouges attends a military academy and does not pay tuition, she elected to give the educational stipend to the members of VTSD. It was a proud moment at another terrific collegiate nationals.
Photo by J.T. Valentine
About the Author
Bill Wenger, D-3774, has been skydiving for more than 37 years and has logged 8,900-plus jumps. He is a current member of the U.S. Style & Accuracy Team. Wenger has been a competitor, pilot, judge and meet director at the USPA Collegiates, having attended 29 of the competitions over the years. He serves on the USPA Board of Directors as Mountain Regional Director and is the USPA Competition Committee Chair.