Sky Broncos fly to second-place finish in national championship
May 3, 2004
BATTLE CREEK, Mich.--Western Michigan University's precision flight team, the Sky Broncos, captured second place this weekend in the National Intercollegiate Flying Association championship, bringing to 13 the team's number of consecutive top-three finishes.
The 15-member Sky Bronco team was one of 31 top aviation schools from around the nation competing in the April 27 through May 1 event at Middle Tennessee State University. The University of North Dakota placed first overall with 124 points, WMU finished second with 99 points and Embry Riddle Aeronautical University-Prescott placed third with 96 points.
The 2004 standings continue a run for all three schools. Since 1996, the three have jockeyed for the top spot and swapped positions in the final standings. The Sky Broncos won the national championship in 1998 and 2002, and the team has now placed in the top three in national competition for 13 years in a row.
NIFA national competitions pit schools against each other in six ground events and five flying events. Team points are earned by competitors who place in the top 10 in each of the events. Teams qualify for national competition by placing first or second in one of NIFA's 11 regional competitions.
The Sky Broncos from WMU's College of Aviation dominated NIFA's Region III competition last October to earn its national berth. The 2003-04 Sky Broncos are led by co-captains Ian Alexander, an aviation flight science major from Grandville, Mich., and Jelani Kelley, an aviation maintenance technology major from Bloomfield Hills, Mich. Both Alexander and Kelley have been with the team since the 2001-02 season.
This year, Alexander turned in the Sky Broncos' top performance with a 26-point showing that earned him the third-place ranking in the competition's top-pilot standings. Senior Marshall Lynn of Holly, Mich., snagged eighth place in the top-pilot standings by earning 18 points. Lynn also was selected by his teammates as the Sky Broncos' outstanding team member.
Head coach Tom Grossman, who is the College of Aviation's chief flight instructor, says his team maintained its longtime reputation as one of NIFA's toughest competitors, earning second place in the five flight events and fourth place in the six ground events. The team also came in second in the standings for the Judges Trophy, which is based on the performance and standings of all of the team members, including those who did not place in the top 10.
"I'm extremely pleased with the way our team members performed in the ground events, in the flight events and, overall, as tough competitors who represented the University with skill and grace," said Grossman of his team.
NIFA has been holding national championship competitions since 1949. This year's competition featured such schools as the U.S. Naval and Air Force academies; Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Ohio, Ohio State, Southern Illinois and San Jose State universities; and the universities of Illinois and Nebraska.
2004 Sky Broncos
Ian Alexander, a 2001 graduate of Grandville (Mich.) High School, is the son of Janice and Michael Alexander. He is a junior, majoring in aviation flight science and co-captain of the Sky Broncos. He came in third in the competition's top-pilot standings and placed first in preflight inspection and third in power-off landings,
Robbie Beechuk of Plymouth, Mich., is a 2001 graduate of Detroit Catholic Central High School in Redford, Mich., and the son of Lorraine and Daniel Beechuk of Plymouth. A junior majoring in finance, Beechuk placed seventh in the power-off landing event.
Andrew Drake, a 2000 graduate of Huron High School in Ann Arbor, Mich., now lives in Kalamazoo. He is the son of Debra Nystrom and Thomas Drake of Chico, Calif. He graduated from WMU April 24 with a degree in aviation flight science and administration. Drake placed third in preflight inspection and eighth in computer accuracy.
Travis Epp of Clarklake, Mich., is a 2001 graduate of Napoleon High School and the son of Jan Epp of Clarklake and Rodger Epp of Howell, Mich., and a junior majoring in aviation flight science.
Garrett Heinz, a 2002 graduate of Brother Rice High School in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., is the son of Joan and Warren Heinz. He is a sophomore majoring in aviation flight science.
David Jackson of Carelton, Mich., is a 2000 graduate of Airport High School and the son of Sheryl Spencer and Dan Jackson. He is a junior majoring in aviation flight science.
Michael Kalinski, a 2000 graduate of Garden City (Mich.) High School, is the son of Barb and John Kalinski. He is a senior majoring in aviation flight science.
Jelani Kelley of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., is a 2001 graduate of Lahser High School and the son of Carol and Marcus Kelley. He is a junior majoring in aviation maintenance technology and co-captain of the Sky Broncos. He placed 10th in aircraft recognition.
Marc Kobaissi, a 2000 graduate of Barrington (Ill.) High School, is the son of Barbara and Hassan Kobaissi. He is an aviation flight science major who graduated from WMU April 24. He placed second in aircraft recognition and second in crew resource management/line oriented flight training.
Justin Lipka of Ira, Mich., is a 2001 graduate of Anchor Bay High School in New Baltimore, Mich., and the son of Debby Lipka. He is a junior majoring in aviation flight science. Lipka placed 10th in the simulated comprehensive aircraft navigation event.
Marshall Lynn of Holly, Mich., is a 2000 graduate of St. Mary's Prep School in Orchard Lake, Mich. and the son of Therese and Dwight Lynn. He is an aviation flight science major who graduated April 24. Lynn placed second in navigation and was selected by the WMU team as its outstanding team member.
Joshua Niedzwiecki is a 2001 graduate of Waterford (Mich.) Mott High School. A junior majoring in aviation flight science, he is the son of Susan and Carl Niedzwiecki.
Jonathan Pridgeon of Montgomery, Mich., is a 2001 graduate of Reading (Mich.) High School. The son of Diane and Mike Pridgeon, he is a junior majoring in aviation flight science. He placed second in crew resource management/line oriented flight training.
Amanda Renouf of Whitehall, Mich., is the daughter of Marj and Jerry Renouf. A home-schooled student before college, she is an aviation flight science major who graduated from WMU April 24.
Aaron Trombley of Medford, Ill., is a 1995 graduate of Shawnee High School and the son of Joyce and Eugene Trombley. He is an aviation flight science major who graduated from WMU on April 24. Trombley placed fifth in computer accuracy and sixth in navigation.
NOTE: This story was updated May 12 to reflect changes in the point totals that moved WMU from third to second place overall in the official NIFA championship standings.
Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 269 387-8400, firstname.lastname@example.org