From Dec. 28 to 30, 2016, the USPA National Collegiate Competition took place in Eloy, Arizona. Nine team members from UConn Skydiving headed to Skydive Arizona on Dec. 25 to begin their training for the competition.
“We needed a few days to get used to the new airport and the new landing areas, as well as get some last minute practice in before the competition,” Steph Krar, a member of the four-way team, said.
The freefall portion of the competition began on Dec. 28. This consists of two-way formation skydiving, four-way formation skydiving and six-way speed.
For four-way skydiving, there are a total of 24 formations that flyers need to know for the event. One jump will ask for two or three of these formations, repeated over and over for 35 seconds of freefall. Each formation is worth one or two points, depending on complexity.
“Four-way formation skydiving is definitely one of the most competitive events at the competition. Each team selects some of their best flyers to compete in this event,” Krar explained.
UConn’s four-way team, called True Blue, consisted of Krar, Andrew Yin, Joshua Reinert and Alexander Teskey. The quartet began training for this event in June.
“We have about 40 training jumps together and several hours of practice in a wind tunnel,” Krar said. “The tunnel is an excellent way for us to practice our formations and really isolate all of our movements, focusing only on how we fly our bodies, without the added pressure of being in freefall.”
The four-way competition has six rounds. The night before the competition, the flyers were given the formations for the dives they would be completing. These formations are randomly chosen by a computer.
“We practice them over and over again on the ground, and engineer the dives so each person has to move the smallest amount possible so we can be quick and efficient,” Krar said.
When the team jumps, a videographer follows them out of the plane and records their formations for the duration of the jump. Upon landing, that video is given to the judges who score the jump.
Going into the final round, True Blue was in first place but separated from third place by only four points. Given a relatively simple set of formations for the final jump, the competition was anyone’s game.
“We all really focused and I’m not sure what happened, but something clicked and in that last round we had our best jump we had ever done,” Krar said. “It was such an incredible feeling; we all landed and high-fived and hugged each other and had huge smiles because we knew we had put everything into that jump. We were so proud.”
The teams trailing UConn into the final round were West Point and Air Force. Both schools have highly experienced coaches and receive a lot of support for their program. UConn, in comparison, also receives support from the university, but doesn’t have a real coach and the members often pay for their own training. Not to mention, they were the only school in the event that was not a military academy.
UConn’s score in the final round was 24 points, pushing their final score to 77. Behind them was West Point, with a score of 68 (final round 17), and Air Force with a score of 66 (final round 17).
The accuracy portion of the competition involves flying your parachute to land on a target.
“I like to joke that it’s like human darts,” Krar explained.
The score for this event is based on the distance the flyer lands from the target. In Classic Accuracy, the flyer lands on an inflatable tuffet 10 meters across. At the center is a target roughly the size of a dime. There are four rounds, and whoever has the lowest score at the end of those rounds is the winner. UConn’s Doug Hendrix won bronze in this event.
“Collegiate skydiving is not a very large community so it’s awesome to go back year after year and see those same faces again and again,” Krar said. “We’ve really made some lasting friendships with other teams through this competition. Overall, the entire team had a really great time.”
And skydivers are all about having a great time. When looking through the teams that participated in Collegiates, you can see some pretty funny team names. “Harambe’s Revenge” participated in six-way speed, finishing just ahead of “Dude, Where’s My Car?”
“We take the sport and competition seriously, but we definitely don’t take ourselves too seriously,” Krar said. “We love to come up with funny team names. Plus, it’s really great when a team with a funny name wins a medal and they have to announce it at the awards ceremony. Everyone gets a good laugh out of it, even the judges. Like this year everyone was cracking up when one of the accuracy teams, ‘Smash Your X,’ won a medal.”
Some UConn team names included “Will and Tom’s Excellent Adventure,” “Wu-Tang Clan” and “Plan B.”
“UConn is pretty notorious for funny team names, so we spend a lot of time coming up with good ones! Gotta hold up our reputation,” Krar said. “The only serious name we have is our four-way team. ‘CT True Blue’ is a long standing tradition for the skydiving team. It’s awesome to be able to carry on the tradition and be able to continue the success of the teams before us. It sounds kind of corny, but it’s really special to be a part of the True Blue Legacy.”
Rachel Schaefer is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org