The University of Connecticut skydiving team was the only non-military academy team to win a gold medal at the 2019 U.S. Parachute Association’s (USPA) National Collegiate Parachuting Championship.
The championship was held from Dec. 28 to Jan. 2 at a skydiving center south of Phoenix, according to USPA Director of Sport Promotion Nancy Koreen. UConn’s team, named CT True Blue, won gold in the advanced 4-way formation skydiving event.
“In 4-way formation skydiving, the team leaps from an aircraft more than two miles above the ground and then races against the clock to form prescribed geometric formations in freefall before opening their parachutes,” a USPA press release reads.
Koreen said a videographer jumps with the team and the competition’s judges use that video to score the jumps. The team with the most total points after six jumps wins, Koreen said.
There were a total of 13 schools at the competition, Koreen said, including Georgia Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and U.S. Naval Academy.
“The U.S. Air Force Academy and U.S. Military Academy at West Point took home all the other medals,” Koreen said. “The UConn team was the only non-military school to win gold.”
Thirteen UConn students competed in Arizona, including fourth-semester natural resources major Rhianna Sullivan.
Sullivan said the team members train in the wind tunnel in Nashua, New Hampshire, because it helps them improve their skydiving without actually making the skydive.
“When it comes to training in the sky, it all depends on what you’re doing and when you’ve started skydiving,” Sullivan said. “We have some members who just joined this fall, so they had [a] few training jumps with their team members.”
Sullivan said CT True Blue enters the competition every year. The team started training together around April, but this year they learned at the last minute that two of its members were unable to jump due to doctors’ orders, Sullivan said.
“It was totally unplanned to have gone that way because our original team had trained together,” Sullivan said. “The news that two people couldn’t jump happened days before competition, so by the time we put together a new team, it was time for competition.”
Due to the last-minute adjustments, the team they sent this year had not done any training jumps prior to the competition, Sullivan said.
“I’m still proud of everyone because despite all the speed bumps along the way, we still ended up winning gold,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan also took home a gold medal in the classical accuracy event, according to the press release.
“[In the classical accuracy event], jumpers exit an airplane more than 3,000 feet in the air and then steer their parachutes and try to land on a dime-sized dot on a landing tuffet,” the press release said.
Sullivan said the win was very exciting for her because she was both the only woman and the only non-military competitor in the event.
“I went into it worried I didn’t have enough training, and at the end I still did really well,” Sullivan said. “I worked really hard for accuracy and I’m glad it paid off.”
Gabriella DeBenedictis is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.