New Jumpers Experience Community Spirit at Rookiefest
By Casey McGrath
For one of its season’s final events, Skydive Chicago in Ottawa, Illinois, welcomed freshly licensed jumpers from all over the country to its ninth annual Rookiefest, a Nationals-style competition for beginning skydivers. Jumpers with fewer than 200 jumps or two years in the sport qualified to participate, and this year’s competition enjoyed a record number of 78 Rookiefesters, nearly double that of previous seasons.
Two rookies and a coach from one of Skydive Chicago’s nationally recognized and world-renowned teams, SDC Rhythm XP and SDC Core, comprised each team. When inclement weather kept the fleet of eager jumpers on the ground most of the weekend, members of SDC Rhythm XP were quick to compensate by offering clinics on body-flight skills, demonstrating proper exit techniques and leading topical discussions designed for the new jumper.
While the sky may have been more full of clouds than canopies, Skydive Chicago’s hangar was buzzing with an excitement so particular to those just getting into the sport. It’s an energy that camera flyer and organizer Keith Nugent said makes Rookiefest such a memorable and inspiring event. “The camaraderie that develops between the newbies and the professionals is really incredible,” Nugent explained. “Even though we didn’t get to jump as much as we’d hoped to, the group workshops and discussions were really informative. Everyone learns so much.”
Low clouds forced final rankings to be based on an in-hangar creeper-based formation competition and one round of successful jumps. Katie Crabb took third place, Ellen Jones took second, and Greg L’Heureux took first place and earned both bragging rights and one-season ownership of the traveling Rookiefest trophy. In addition to medals, prizes included Aerodyne Research Pilot canopies and gear, Airtec CYPRES gear, Cookie helmets, Mirage containers, Skydive Wings containers and SSK Industries hats, as well as free jumps at Skydive Chicago.
Public Relations and Events Coordinator A.J. Johnson says that for events like these, community spirit is one of its most invaluable components. “So many friendships are established at Rookiefest every year,” he said. “While the sky gives us some amazing moments in this sport, some of the best memories are still the ones we make on the ground.”
Casey McGrath | B-42728