Above: 4-way open team Navy Yuan is all smiles after landing.
Many college attendees spend their winter breaks visiting their hometowns, but the 97 competitors at the 2023 USPA National Collegiate Skydiving Championships spent winter break displaying their skydiving skills and vying for medals. From December 28 through January 3, Skydive Elsinore in California graciously hosted competitors from 10 different colleges from around the United States. Students from Columbia University, the Georgia Institute of Technology; Iowa State University; University of Connecticut; University of California, Berkeley; University of Maryland and Western Michigan University joined students from three United States miliary academies—The U.S. Air Force Academy, Military Academy at West Point and Naval Academy—to compete in sport accuracy landing and formation skydiving at the 66th annual event.
The first day of scheduled competition was beautiful, but the weather forecast predicted rain, so Meet Director Randy Connell wasted no time in getting the plane turning loads from sunrise to sunset. With incredible teamwork between the Skydive Elsinore staff and veteran USPA judges, the 2-way open and advanced formation skydiving teams completed all three rounds in one day.
The competition between U.S. Naval Academy’s advanced teams, Navy Ukulele (Maeve Carigg and Julian Saldana) and Navy Dragon (Henry Berthwick and Conner Mollberg), came down to a tie for first after round three, which required both teams to make a fourth jump as a tiebreaker. In an unusual happenstance, both teams received a score of eight … another tie! Fortunately, the Skydiver’s Competition Manual spells out the procedure for this situation: The team with the highest scoring round during the competition prevails. Navy Ukulele, which scored 13 points in round three, went home with the gold.
In 2-way open FS, West Point Rice and Beans (Aaron Mendiola and Storm Stern) took the gold in a field of 12 teams and also set a National Collegiate Record for Highest 2-Way FS Average with 15 points.
University of Connecticut's Yan Fusheng, Yiquin Shi and Gabriela Soriano of Spice Girls and Guys board the plane for a 4-way advanced round.
As predicted, the start of day two of competition was rainy. The planes stayed grounded until it cleared in the afternoon, allowing the open and advanced 4-way FS teams and the 2-way vertical formation skydiving teams to complete all their competition rounds. Even with the early rain, the competition ran just as smoothly as the first day, and the competitors even set several state collegiate records.
Teams Air Force K2 (Kate Cardinal and Katy Felix) and Air Force Funkytown (Cole Castillo and Chase Powers) set a joint California Collegiate Record for Longest 2-Way VFS Sequence with 15-point rounds. Air Force Dice (Bryce Parsons and Daniel Smith), which took the gold in the 2-way VFS event, set a California State Record for Highest VFS Average with 10.75 points. Air Force Artemis (Benjamin Lee, Maggie Marlow, Alexis Tri and Ethan Wipf) set two California Collegiate Records: Longest 4-Way FS Sequence (39 points) and Highest 4-Way FS Average (23.33 points) and took gold in the open 4-way FS class. West Point Us or Them (Sarah Cao, Sudie Hall, Isaiah McNeilly and Luke Sapio, took the advanced 4-way FS gold with a 13.33-point average.
The morning of day three was cold and brisk, but low winds made for perfect sport-accuracy conditions. All 97 competitors gave their best attempts at hitting the 16-inch diameter target, and throughout the competition judges recorded a dead-center score 47 times! Trever Shin from U.C. Berkeley came to the competition specifically to compete in Sport Accuracy. He said, “I only have 33 jumps, but it sounded fun and I came to see what Collegiates was all about.”
In the team sport accuracy event, team Air Force Ken (Luke Anderson, Brock Holmgreen, Jack Treinish, and Ethan Wipf) set a National Collegiate Record for Lowest Team Score after Three Rounds with a total score of 9.42 meters. In the master’s category of the individual event, Brock Holmgreen and Jack Treinish of the Air Force Academy both finished with four dead centers, tying for first and setting a joint California Collegiate Record for Lowest Sport Accuracy Score after Four Rounds with 0.00 meters. In the intermediate category, Luke Sapio from West Point dominated, scoring dead-centers in three out of the four rounds and taking home the gold. In the novice category, Faith Riccobene of West Point earned gold with 27.82 meters total.
A member of the Air Force Academy prepares to hit center in accuracy landing competition.
On day four of competition, competitors and staff scrambled to complete the 6-way speed event. The Air Force Gremlins (Luke Anderson, Brock Holmgreen, Maggie Marlow, Halle Pelletier, Gabrielle Wilson and Ethan Wipf) walked away with the gold medal after receiving an average time of 9.77 seconds and setting the California Collegiate Record for Fastest Time with an 8.53-second performance in round three.
When all was said and done, Brock Holmgreen from the U.S. Air Force Academy emerged as the Most Competitive Collegiate Skydiver based on his excellent performances in a variety of events. As a member of a service academy, Holmgreen could not accept the associated André Istel Memorial Scholarship, which he passed along to the jumpers of Western Michigan University.
Skydive City Zephyrhills in Florida is hosting the next Collegiate Skydiving Championships from December 28, 2024, to January 2, 2025. Both undergraduate and graduate college skydivers are eligible to attend. Competitors can find details about the event in Chapter 7 of the Skydiver’s Competition Manual, available at uspa.org/scm.
A detailed scoreboard is available at omniskore.com.