The 2018 USPA National Skydiving Championships
By Steve Hubbard
Chicagoland Skydiving Center in Rochelle, Illinois, hosted the 2018 USPA National Skydiving Championships September 4-18. This was the first time the mid-sized Midwestern drop zone hosted a national championships and despite a few unexpected challenges, DZO Doug Smith, Director of Marketing Becky Johns and the rest of the CSC staff rose to the occasion to ensure a successful event.
Vertical Formation Skydiving
The competition started with the vertical formation skydiving event. Thanks to the hard work of the members of VFS open team SDC Core, the drop zone and Formation Skydiving Chief Judge Jim Rees, USPA was able to add a VFS intermediate class as a test event in addition to the existing open and advanced classes. To the surprise of many, five teams registered and competed in this brand-new test class, which matched the number of teams registered in each of the open and advanced classes. Several of the teams had even registered and traveled to CSC specifically to compete in VFS intermediate, knowing full well that they wouldn’t be receiving medals.
Unfortunately, the weather gods were against the competitors, and only five of the scheduled 10 rounds completed. Regardless, the teams gave it their all and competed hard. In the open class, Golden Knights VFS took the bronze with a 14.80-point average; Arizona X-Force finished with the silver and a 17.80-point average; and SDC Core came away with the gold with a 23.80-point average. Core’s performance was especially impressive considering that most of the team members pulled double duty, flying in both their own event and as videographers for several of the VFS intermediate teams.
In the advanced class, STF Pickle Ricks grabbed the bronze with an 8.00-point average; Dynasty finished with the silver and a 13.00-point average; and SDMW Chemtrails took the gold with a 14.60-point average.
In the Intermediate test class, Vertical Shift (with SDC Core member Stephanie Strange flying video) finished in third place with a 9.40-point average; DEFCON 1 (with SDC Core member Rook Nelson flying video) finished in second place with a 12.00-point average; and ECLIPTIK placed first with a 13.00-point average. With the overwhelming success of this test event, it is likely that the Competition Committee will receive a request to approve this class for the 2019 USPA National Skydiving Championships.
Mixed Formation Skydiving
Despite the challenges that the weather presented, the MFS competitors were able to complete all eight rounds of the event. In the open class, Minor Skirmish took the bronze with an 8.13-point average; Elsinore Hawks finished with the silver medal and an 11.13-point average; and SDC Revolutionary War led the pack for the gold with a 14.38-point average. In the advanced class, Size 9 secured the bronze on the final jump, topping the fourth-place team’s final score by only two points and coming away with a 10.25-point average. Huey & Burt's Parents took the silver with an 11.00-point average, and the USAF Wings of Blue took home the gold with 14.63-point average.
Unfortunately for the artistic events’ competitors, judges and fans, the weather wreaked havoc on this year’s competition and allowed completion of only one round of freestyle and two rounds of freeflying. Only two teams registered for the freefly event. Taft Evolution finished in second with a score of 9.5, and the reigning National Champion, Team FLO, held onto its title with a score of 16.8.
In the freestyle event, AZ Dream took bronze with a score of 7.8. Five-time National Champion Animare XP finished with the silver with an 8.4. Narrowly besting Animare for the gold was Axiom XP with a score of 8.7. This sets the stage for a battle of the home teams at next year’s National Championships at Skydive Paraclete XP in Raeford, North Carolina, where both Animare and Axiom train.
4-Way Formation Skydiving
It was almost as though Mother Nature knew there were hundreds of competitors sitting on the ground, waiting for her to let them play, because on the first day of 4-way, the weather broke and set the stage for several consecutively beautiful days of skydiving.
This year, there was a slight change to the regular schedule of Nationals, and the intermediate teams competed first, with advanced and open starting two days later. Following 10 rounds of intermediate competition, Hands Free and Cali4nia Kids found themselves tied for the bronze with a 12.20-point average, requiring a jumpoff. Hands Free finished the tie-breaker round with a score of 14, topping the Cali4nia Kids’ score of 11. SDMW X finished with the silver and 13.20-point average. Guest team SDC Rhevolution XP put in a great performance with a 13.70-point average, nipping on the heels of gold medalist TSC Cadence, which finished with a 13.80-point average.
In the advanced class, Elsinore Elevate took bronze with a 14.70-point average; Seattle Swift secured the silver with a 14.80 average; and SavageXP finished in the top spot with a 17.40-point average.
In the open class, Arizona Airspeed Odyssey took bronze with 20.60-point average, just narrowly beating the fourth-place team, Defiance, by three points. SDC Rhythm XP was the silver medalist with a 22.30-point average. And in no surprise to followers of 4-way, perennial winner Arizona Airspeed was on top of the podium yet again, taking the gold with a 25.50-point average.
8-Way Formation Skydiving
This year’s 8-way open class saw something that it hasn’t seen in a very long time: the lack of a Golden Knights team. Due to the pending arrival of Hurricane Florence in North Carolina, the Golden Knights 8-way team, which is based in the state, decided to leave CSC before the start of the 8-way event to head back to North Carolina to prepare their homes and families before the hurricane hit. With the 8-way gold up for grabs, all eyes were on the five open teams. The Amphibious Attack Tigers took bronze with an 11.80-point average. Guest team Qatar scored a 16.10-point average, while Arizona Airspeedish 8 took the silver with a 16.50-point average. XP 8 rose to the top and took the gold with a 16.90-point average, becoming the new U.S. 8-Way Team.
In the intermediate class, there was an extraordinary battle for the top three spots with the top teams separated by only four points. Perris Funky Nuggets took the bronze with a 5.90-point average; AF Afterthought secured the silver with a 6.10-point average; and Shapeshifters scored a 6.50-point average to take home the gold. Two guest teams from France—Dong Ding and Ding Dong—also put in top-shelf performances with a 6.50 and 6.90 average, respectively.
In the advanced class, Screaming Beagles finished with a 7.70-point average and the bronze; Partially Disturbed took home the silver with a 9.10-point average; and Spaceland Lite 8 secured the gold with a 9.50-point average.
16-Way Formation Skydiving
The departure of the Golden Knights left ripples through the remaining FS events, including 16-way. Lite 350 Tiger Monsters finished with a 5.83-point average for the bronze; Dallas Disturbance finished with the silver and a 7.67-point average; and XP 16 took the gold with an 8.33-point average.
Deguello 17, which was celebrating its 30th anniversary as a team, placed fourth. To recognize this amazing feat, Competition Committee Chair Kirk Verner approved Meet Director James Hayhurst, USPA Controller Steve Hubbard and Chief Judge Rees to present team leader Jack Berke with the Ted Strong Award for Extraordinary Sportsmanship. Over the three decades of its existence (first as a 20-way team, then as a 16-way team when USPA and the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale changed their events), Berke has led more than 200 jumpers as members of Deguello at Nationals, and the team has medaled in every year but two. USPA wished Berke and all past, present and future members of the team 30 more years of top-notch Nationals competition!
10-Way Speed Formation Skydiving
In this fun and lighthearted event, Elsinore Hang 10 took the bronze with a 19.41-second average; Rhino Kisses and Dirty Dishes took silver with an 18.43-second average; and Amphibious Attack Tigers snagged the gold with an impressive 13.22-second average.
This year’s Judges’ Choice Award (for shenanigans that take place during or after the formation is built) went to Fire Breathing Rubber Duckies. Perris Sharkettes, last year’s winner of the C.G. Godfrog Good Vibes Award (a highly coveted honor that the late Pat Works, an early proponent of FS competition, created in 1972) passed the honor along to Yo Scotty Carbone.
Combined Formation Skydiving Champions
The FS Combined Champions came from multiple teams, demonstrating the diversity of competition participation needed to capture this title. Andrew Happick, JaNette Lefkowitz and Steven Lefkowitz from SDC Rhythm XP; Niklas Hemlin from Arizona Airspeed; and Michelle Karamon from XP 8 each had two gold medals and one silver medal in their top three events, earning the five jumpers the title.
Acrobatic Wingsuit Flying
After what seemed like a mass exodus from the drop zone when the hundreds of FS competitors went home, the wingsuit and speed skydiving competitors took to the skies. First up were the acrobatic wingsuit flying teams. Duopede took the bronze with an average of 180.00 points. Flying Spaghetti Monster took silver with an average of 210.71 points (and also won the Best Team Photo contest). The now back-to-back National Champions of Acrobatic Wingsuit Flying, A-Team, took the gold medal with an average of 290.00 points. Additionally, Team FlyLikeBrick, a guest team from Europe that represented wind tunnel Wingsuit Flying Stockholm in Sweden, showed everyone that training in a tunnel can make a huge difference to a wingsuit team’s performance by averaging 319.43 points.
After the completion of the acrobatic wingsuit event, the speed skydivers took to the air to show the rest of the skydiving world what they’ve got. For spectators, there is no way to get used to the sound that’s produced by a human traveling at a vertical speed of more than 300 mph, which is clearly audible to those on the ground. Unfortunately, the first two rounds took place above the maximum exit altitude of 13,500 feet, causing all competitors to receive a score of zero for those rounds. But once the exit altitude was sorted out, it was off to the races. Eugene Ciurana finished with an average of 360.20 km/h (223.82 mph) for the bronze. Taking silver, Joe Carder finished with an average of 425.00 km/h (264.08 mph). Taking gold, Kyle Lobpries finished with an average of 476.33 km/h (295.98 mph) and also set a North American Continental Record with his highest average run, 483.86 km/h (300.66 mph).
Performance Wingsuit Flying
Unfortunately, bad weather decided to rear its ugly head once again for the last event, and the performance competitors were able to complete only six of the scheduled nine jumps. In the newly formed advanced class, only two national competitors participated, along with one guest competitor. Hopefully, that number will climb as word gets out that competitors can fly any wingsuit for this class (instead of being restricted by suit size as was the previous intermediate class). Silver medalist Ashlee Richman scored 270.4; gold medalist Nathan Henry scored 291.9 points; and guest competitor Iurii Cartev from Moldova finished with 300.2 points.
In the open class, there was a very tight race for the silver, with Kristian Szczepitko ultimately taking the bronze with 286.0 points and Alexey Galda securing the silver with 286.9 points. With less than one point separating the competitors in second and third place, who knows what would have happened if they had the chance to complete the last round? In front of the pack, Chris Geiler successfully defended his title as National Champion, taking the gold again this year with a total of 298.3 points.
Next year from September 1-27, Skydive Paraclete XP in Raeford, North Carolina, will host a Mondial-style USPA Nationals that encompasses all of the skydiving and parachuting events currently in existence.
Editors note: The scoreboard of the 4-way Intermediate is incorrect. SDC Rhevolution XP was a guest team. SDMW X came in second place while Hands Free finished in third place after a tie-breaker with Cali4nia Kids.lace while Hands Free finished in third place after a tie-breaker with Cali4nia Kids.