Diamond Anniversary: The 60th Annual USPA National Collegiate Parachuting Championships
by Alix Raymond Hubbard
by Alix Raymond Hubbard
Photos by Laszlo Andacs
For many college students, the winter holiday break was a time to spend with family and to eat, drink and be merry, but for 82 competitors from 11 colleges, it was also a time to compete. These students spent December 27-January 2 under the watchful eye of DZ Manager Betty Hill at Florida Skydiving Center in Lake Wales at the National Collegiate Parachuting Championships. The 60-year-old competition offers collegiate skydivers a financially accessible way to compete and have fun in a safe environment. The competition includes longtime events such as classic accuracy and 2-way, 4-way and 6-way formation skydiving, as well as newer events such as 2-way vertical formation skydiving and sport accuracy.
Students from the United States Military Academy at West Point and the United States Air Force Academy always have a commanding presence at Collegiates, and this year was no different. However, students from nine other schools—Fort Lewis College, Georgia Tech, Iowa State University, Kansas State University, Northeastern University, the United States Naval Academy, University of Connecticut, University of Georgia and University of Massachusetts–Amherst—gave them a run for their money. Whether the students had 25 jumps or were seasoned competitors, there was a place for them at this event.
In the most accessible freefall discipline at Collegiates, 2-way FS (designed for novices with A licenses and fewer than 125 skydives), 13 teams competed. While many competitors showed up as teams, Bethany Greene (36 jumps) from the United States Naval Academy and Racheet Matai (29 jumps) from the University of Iowa met each other on site the morning of the competition and formed Goat Cyclones. Though they finished in last place with a 1.67 average, both Greene and Matai stated that they really enjoyed the learning experience of the competition and would be back to try again next year.
West Point dominated the 2-way FS leaderboard, with five of its teams in the top five spots. Heading into round three (the final round), Army West Point Schnack Pack (Zachary Daines and Seamus McGettigan) had a one-point lead over Army West Point No Rudder (Henry Newstrom and Andrew Winski). No Rudder then pulled even with Schnack Pack in the final round with a 21.67 average. However, Schnack Pack was ultimately victorious after a jump off, scoring 20 points to No Rudder’s 19. Army West Point’s Meat Missiles (Megan Gould and Dion Perinon) ended the competition in third place with a 21.33-point average.
The still-emerging Collegiates discipline, 2-way VFS, which also requires only an A license to enter, included competitors from only West Point and the Air Force Academy. Two teams from each school battled it out across four rounds. With a 9.25-point average, AF SieteLobo (Connor Severino and Zachary Wolf) added a gold medal to the gold they took in 2-way advanced mixed formation skydiving at the USPA Nationals at Skydive Perris in California in September (where they finished with a 10.25-point average). AF Spare Change (Jacob Volin and Daniel Zivney) took silver with a 5.50-point average, while Army West Point Diamond Dogs (Keaton Crowder and Calvin Nguyen) took home the bronze with a 2.50 average.
4-Way and Speed
In the 4-way FS advanced competition, six teams competed for the title. Though weather held the competition to four of the scheduled six rounds, Army West Point 14-13 (William Derrick, Johnathon Muraski, Thomas Rounds and Jeremy Stanley) took the gold with a commanding 20.50 average. Army West Point C- (Andrew Cochran, Kristopher Hayhurst, Seamus Hurley and Tristan Tarpey) finished the meet with a 17.50 average to win the silver, and University of Connecticut team CT True Blue (Stephanie Krar, Nicholas Vayakar, Hailey Voyer and Andrew Yin) put up a strong showing and gave the second-place team a run for its money, finishing with a 16.75-point average to secure the bronze medal.
The 4-way FS open event consisted solely of four Air Force teams who displayed impressive skill. 2017 USPA Nationals 4-way advanced silver medalist AF Storm (David Arneberg, Chandler Beachy, Ryan Silva and Joe Wilde) took the gold medal with a 29.75-point average, while AF Blaze (Nathan Brooks, Molly Ferguson, Thomas Hurst and Madeleine Wawrzyniak), which placed seventh in 4-way advanced at Nationals, took the silver with a 24-point average. AF Skyfall (John Allen, Sydney Heitnoff, Ryan Palmer and Taylor Pond) took home the bronze with a 17.25-point average.
Due to weather challenges, the 6-way FS speed event completed only two of its scheduled three rounds. However, the speed rules changed this year, so a collegiate record was ripe for the taking. Army West Point Scheme Team 6 (Michael Colella, Derrick, Camm Johnson, Muraski, Rounds and Stanley) set that record with a 9.16-second score in round one and also took home the gold with a 9.92-second average. A heartbreaking first round by the sole civilian team in the competition, 6-way and Chill (Doug Hendrix, Nicholas Jayakar, Krar, William Savage, Aley Teskey and Yin) from the University of Connecticut, appeared to have completed the formation with a time between 13 and 14 seconds but broke theirs grip too early. This led to a maximum score of 35 seconds and dropped them out of medal contention to ultimately finish seventh with a 24.16-second average. Air Force team Bad Maddys (Brooks, Raymone Jackson, Severino, Noah Taylor, Wawrzyniak and Wolf) finished in second with an 11.16-second average, and AF Chan’s 21st (Arneberg, Beachy, Ferguson, Hurst, Silva and Wilde) finished right on their heels with an 11.19-second average to take the bronze.
Meet Director James Hayhurst, a classic accuracy legend, served as the test pilot for the classic accuracy competition, ensuring the winds and jump run were appropriate. The competitors completed two out of the scheduled four rounds, once again hampered by borderline weather conditions. Eight competitors from West Point and a lone competitor from the University of Connecticut (Hendrix) vied for the top three slots. After the first round, Cochran sat atop the standings with a score of 1 cm, with Muraski and Kristopher Hayhurst following with 3 cms each. Hendrix followed close behind with a 9-cm score, holding down the fourth-place slot. After the second round, Hayhurst once again scored 3 cm to secure the gold medal, while Hendrix repeated his 9-cm performance to win silver. Crowder, though scoring 59 cm in round one, scored 12 cm in round two to finish with 71 cm and the bronze medal.
The most popular discipline at Collegiates, sport accuracy (with 79 out of 82 competitors participating), completed three of its four rounds, ensuring a clear winner in each of the classes. In sport accuracy, it’s anyone’s game. Though many competitors scored dead centers, only those who were able to perform consistently took home medals.
The novice class, open to competitors with A licenses and fewer than 125 jumps, attracted 28 entrants with jump numbers ranging from 27 to 102. Three competitors from West Point secured the top three slots, with Winski taking gold with 3.97 meters (including a dead center in round two). Elliot Klein, who also scored a dead center in round three, took the silver, and Perinon took bronze.
In the intermediate class, reserved for skydivers with between 126 and 350 jumps, 26 athletes competed. Air Force’s Allen scored three dead centers to win gold, while Air Force’s Volin came in second with a total of 3.82 meters (and two dead centers). West Point cadet Derrick finished with a score of 8.20 meters (scoring one dead center) and took the bronze.
The master’s class, reserved for athletes with 351 jumps or more, contained 25 competitors. The competition was incredibly stiff, and three competitors from the Air Force (Severino, Taylor and Wolf) tied for the gold by scoring dead centers in all three rounds. Air Force’s Brooks finished fourth with two dead centers, scoring an overall 3 cm.
When athletes compete in sport accuracy, they have the choice to also perform on a four-person team to earn an additional medal. AF Sietray-Nobo (Jackson, Severino, Taylor and Wolf) finished first with an impressive 1.58-meter total over 12 jumps. In second place, AF Storm (Arneberg, Beachy, Silva and Wilde) scored 29.93 meters for the silver, while Army West Point Smash is a GO (Cochran, Crowder, Hayhurst and Tarpey) scored 56.46 meters for the bronze.
Medals and More
After presenting the medals, USPA Controller Randy Connell presented the coveted Gavin Gavel, named after Lt. General James Gavin, who donated his military jump wings (bearing four combat stars) to be mounted on a gavel as a trophy for the best team at the National Collegiate Parachuting Championships starting in 1958. The gavel was retired in 1988, but USPA revived it in 2015. This year, the Air Force Academy and Army West Point ended up in a surprising tie for the award based on overall results.
After the competition, graduate student and University of Connecticut competitor Doug Hendrix, who had just participated in his last Collegiates, said, “Collegiates definitely made me a better skydiver. It provided me with goals for the upcoming year. It was pretty incredible going to my first Collegiates with 90 jumps and seeing Air Force’s 4-way teams and how good they were.” He added, “To first-year competitors, I would say that if they are on the fence about going, they absolutely should go. It is a huge learning experience and a way to push comfort zones coming from your home DZ. Just going and simply watching other skydivers makes you a better skydiver.”
About the Author
Alix Raymond Hubbard, C-42586, currently lives in DeLand, Florida, where she works as a board-certified behavior analyst for children with autism. She is a 2017 USPA Nationals silver medalist in advanced 8-way formation skydiving with Blocksmiths XP, a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale-rated wingsuit flying judge and a nationally rated speed judge.