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Wings of Blue takes 47 medals at nationals
Cadet 1st Class Josh LeMair, a member of the Air Force Wings of Blue Parachute Competition Team, nails a classic accuracy jump in the U.S. Parachute Association's National Collegiate Parachuting Championships, which were held in Eloy, Ariz., from Dec. 30, 2010, to Jan. 1, 2011. Wings of Blue teams won gold in four-way open formation skydiving, two-way vertical formation skydiving, intermediate and masters sport accuracy, intermediate and masters classic accuracy and team classic accuracy. (Courtesy photo/Niklas Daniel)
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Wings of Blue takes 47 medals at nationals

Posted 1/5/2011   Updated 1/5/2011 Email story   Print story


by David Edwards
Academy Spirit staff writer

1/5/2011 - U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- The Wings of Blue parachute team might want to consider changing its name to Wings of Gold.

Air Force Academy cadets competing at the National Collegiate Parachute Championships in Eloy, Ariz., hauled in 47 medals and won gold in every event they entered save for two. Only a technicality kept the Academy team from making the medal count even more impressive.

Although 92 skydivers representing more than a dozen universities took part in the championship, it must have seemed as if the cadets were competing only against themselves.

"This year's performance is the best we have ever done in my 25 years coaching the team," Coach Bill Wenger said. "Out of 10 events and classes of events, we placed first in eight of them. For the first time, every cadet won a medal at the nationals. Our showing at the Nationals in all the events shows the overall strength of the team."

Participants had their pick of numerous events. The championship featured tests of two-, four- and six-way formation skydiving, vertical formation skydiving, classic individual and team accuracy, and sport accuracy.

Three of the events are divided into experience levels ranging from novice to intermediate to open. Mr. Wenger said that the team tries to enter every event at nationals, but it does not enter anyone at the novice level in the three applicable events.

The collegiate national championship is orchestrated by the U.S. Parachute Association, and according to the event website, this competition is the longest-running one in the organization's history.

Speaking of history, the Air Force Academy has a long track record of success at nationals. And this performance ranks among the most dominant.

Individual medal winners included cadets Jonathan Primeaux, John Nygard, Ben Barringer and Alexander Meyer. Cadet Meyer joined cadets Joshua LeMair, Eric Wallace and Kyle Yohe in winning team titles in two-way formation skydiving and classic accuracy. Cadet Nygard and his teammate on the Air Force Instinct duo, Cadet Robert Hemker, picked up the gold in two-way vertical formation skydiving.

About the only thing that stopped the cadets was the weather. An intense storm caused action on the second day of competition to be postponed. The event blog reported that "the drop zone was dramatically pelted with torrential rain, turning Skydive Arizona into a lake."

"The winds only affect the accuracy events, and it did indeed make these events very challenging," Mr. Wenger said. "There are four jumps in the accuracy events, and when the winds are constantly changing it makes it very challenging. For the other events, it was just a matter of waiting for the weather to clear enough to make the jumps. But as in any sport, waiting is often more difficult than jumping."

The Air Force Academy didn't have an absolute monopoly on gold medals. The U.S. Military Academy scored several victories as well, and West Point Cadet Kurt Yeager, a novice jumper, won the medal for Most Competitive Collegiate Competitor.

But the raw results are a bit misleading. West Point had a considerably larger squad at the competition than the Air Force Academy, and in the events that pitted the two academies head to head, the Falcons were more golden than the Golden Knights.

"I think the Wings of Blue are considered the number one collegiate parachute team in the country," Mr. Wenger said." Year after year, the team's performance at the collegiate nationals and demonstrations around the country prove this."

Results from the National Collegiate Parachute Championships:

4-way FS Open
Air Force Impulse (Joshua LeMair, Alexander Meyer, Eric Wallace, Kyle Yohe)

4-way FS Advanced
West Point Indifference (Brett Jack, Christopher Liggett, Griffin Strader, Daniel Sullivan)

2-way FS
West Point Dumbrow (Christian Beckler, Kurt Yeager)

2-way VFS
Air Force Instinct (Robert Hemker, John Nygard)

6-way Speed
West Point Marianne and AJ (Brett Jack, Christopher Liggett, Anibal Lopez, Griffin Strader, Daniel Sullivan, Michael White)

Sport Accuracy
Novice: William Harris, UConn
Intermediate: Jonathan Primeaux, USAFA
Masters: John Nygard, USAFA

Classic Accuracy
Novice: Kurt Yeager, West Point
Intermediate: Ben Barringer, USAFA
Masters: Alexander Meyer, USAFA

Classic Team Accuracy
Air Force Lawn Darts (Joshua LeMair, Alexander Meyer, Eric Wallace, Kyle Yohe)

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