Sky Broncos nab second at national flight competition
May 21, 2001
KALAMAZOO -- Western Michigan University's flight team, the Sky Broncos, nailed down its 10th consecutive top-three national finish when it captured second place in the National Intercollegiate Flying Association's May 15-19 championship.
The 15-member team, which represents WMU's College of Aviation, came in just 12 points behind the University of North Dakota, the host team for this year's national event that was held in Grand Forks, N.D. Embry Riddle Aeronautical University of Prescott, Ariz., came in third. The three teams repeated last year's order of finish at the event that this year attracted 29 teams from around the nation to compete for the national title.
At the championship, team members compete in six ground events and four flight events for a total of 10 opportunities to earn points. Team points are earned by competitors who place in the top 10 in judged events. Individual Sky Broncos earned 17 top-10 placements, and the team captured second place in the flight events and third place in the ground events.
Bloomfield Hills senior Chris Westcott led the way for the Sky Broncos with two third-place finishes and a 10th place finish. Westcott captured third place in the overall "top pilot" standings for the event.
According to Dr. Richard Wright, dean of the College of Aviation, this year's championship was marked by strong showings and large point accumulations by a number of schools not normally among the top placers.
"The point totals for the winning teams were much lower this year because so many schools did well and had strong performances by individual team members," he says. "The team points were earned by a larger-than-usual number of schools."
In addition to taking second place in the championship, the Sky Broncos captured the Judges Trophy. That award is based on the total number of points earned by the team-not just the top-10 placings that count toward the team championship. The WMU team total of 14,188 points was more than 1,100 points higher than its nearest competitor, Ohio State University.
"Evaluating the team as a whole, I'd have to say we were the strongest team at the competition this year," says Sky Broncos Head Coach Ryan Seiler. "Overall, our performance was outstanding. We have great strength and depth, and we're a tough team to beat."
Seiler, who has coached the Sky Broncos for nine years and led them to a national championship in 1998, announced before the competition that he is stepping down as head coach. A replacement has not yet been identified.
"Ryan has done an outstanding job as coach, and it's going to be difficult filling that position," says Wright. "But he's helped us build a strong foundation and, because of that, I'm confident we can look forward to more top-caliber teams in the future."
Top 12 team finishes at 2001 NIFA competition
1. University of North Dakota (124 points)
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