WMU News

Sky Broncos win regionals, qualify for nationals

April 15, 2002

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. -- Western Michigan University's precision flight team, the Sky Broncos, captured first place in regional competition ending this weekend, guaranteeing the team a berth in next month's national competition at Ohio State University.

The 15-member Sky Bronco team from the College of Aviation dominated the National Intercollegiate Flying Association's Region III competition, held April 9-13 on WMU's home field at W.K. Kellogg Airport in Battle Creek, Mich. With six collegiate teams competing for a share of the 660 available points, WMU aviators flew away with a team total of 336 points, sweeping four of the nine events that are part of the competition.

The team from Ohio State came in second with 174 points. Ohio University placed third with a total of 78 points.

The regional win puts the Sky Broncos in the May 14-18 national NIFA championship, which will be held at Ohio State's Columbus, Ohio, home field. The Sky Broncos have finished in the top three in national competition for 10 consecutive years and last captured the national championship in 1998. Last May, the Sky Broncos took second nationally and the University of North Dakota captured first.

NIFA regional and national competitions pit schools against each other in five ground events and four flying events. Team points are earned by competitors who place in the top 10 in each of the events. A team first- or second-place finish at a regional competition means the team qualifies for a spot in the national competition. Since Ohio State already has an automatic berth as this year's host team, a total of three teams from Region III will have a chance to compete at nationals. Ohio University will be the region's third representative.

"They were absolutely awesome," says Sky Bronco head coach Tom Grossman of his team members' work at the regional level. "All of our team members contributed to this win."

Grossman, who is the College of Aviation's chief flight instructor, says in four events, every Sky Bronco competing achieved top placings. With five team members in the aircraft recognition and simulated comprehensive aircraft navigation events, the Sky Broncos captured the top five slots in both. The team fielded three competitors in each of two other events--preflight inspection and navigation--and came away with first- through third-place finishes in those events.

The Sky Broncos took first place in the ground events that are part of the competition and first place overall in the flight events. Four Sky Broncos, all seniors, were honored for their individual performances at the competition. Jeff Haney of Clarklake, Mich., and Ken Rosengren of Wappingers Falls, N.Y., placed first and second, respectively, in the "Top Pilot" standings, while Jess Dudley of Howell, Mich., came in fifth, and Reese Swanson of Prunedale, Calif., placed seventh.

Sky Broncos

Assistant Coaches

Steven Trachuk of Canton, Mich.
James Whittles of Holland, Mich.

Other team members

Ian Alexander, a freshman from Grandville, Mich.
Robbie Beechuk (alternate), a freshman from Redford, Mich.
Michael Cherry, a senior from Charlevoix, Mich.
Martin Coaker, a senior from Rockford, Mich.
Andrew Drake, a sophomore from Lansing, Mich.
Jess Dudley, a senior from Howell, Mich.
Darin Dumas, a senior from Dearborn Heights, Mich.
Jeff Haney, a senior from Clarklake, Mich.
Ben Ilmer, a junior from Farmington Hills, Mich.
Jelani Kelley (alternate), a freshman from Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
Marc Kobaissi, a sophomore from Barrington, Ill.
Marshall Lynn, a sophomore from Holly, Mich.
William Mastick, a sophomore from Waterford, Mich.
Jason McDowell, a senior from Willis, Mich.
Alicia Nault (alternate), a freshman from Fond D Lac, Wisc.
Ken Rosengren, a senior from Wappingers Falls, N.Y.
Reese Swanson, a senior from Prunedale, Calif.
Aaron Trombley (alternate), a sophomore from Medford, N.J.
Dana Walz, a senior from Grand Rapids, Mich.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 269 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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