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Broncos soar to highest finish ever in Air Race Classic

June 26, 2006

BATTLE CREEK, Mich.--Western Michigan University aviators Courtney Hedlund and Leslie Treppa placed fourth among 32 entries in the 2006 Air Race Classic, the highest finish ever for a WMU team in seven attempts at the annual all-women, cross-country competition.

"We are so lucky to have been a part of this race. It has been an awesome experience," says Hedlund. "We are both first-time racers and racing a new plane that Western has never used before. Both Leslie and I were very comfortable flying it, but we don't have hundreds of hours in the cockpit."

Hedlund and Treppa shared piloting duties in one of the College of Aviation's new Cirrus SR20 aircraft, which are equipped with technology and cockpit configurations similar to what is found in commercial airliners. WMU's team had to overcome the fifth highest handicap issued in this year's race, because the SR20 is faster than the Cessnas commonly flown in the race, and the handicap is a direct reflection of the rated air speed of the aircraft.

This year's WMU team brought home the Mary Pearson Award for highest overall finish among the seven entries composed of first-time participants in the Air Race Classic. This was the first year since WMU's original entry in the air race that neither WMU pilot had previous Air Race Classic experience. In past years, one of the two WMU aviators had at least one previous race under her belt and was teamed with a first-time racer.

The June 20-23 race began in Mesa, Ariz., and concluded in Menominee, Mich., with stops along the 2,156-mile race route in New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Kansas and Minnesota. Hedlund and Treppa completed the race in just two days, taking advantage of favorable winds on the second day to stay ahead of severe weather.

WMU was second among four university entries in this year's race and surrendered the Collegiate Trophy to Purdue University, which finished third in the overall standings. One year ago, the WMU team of Erica Ebenhoeh and Sarah Tower won the Collegiate Trophy with an eighth-place overall finish, which at that time was also the best ever for a WMU team.

Hedlund, who hails from Lowell, Mich., is a WMU flight instructor and December 2004 graduate of the College of Aviation. Treppa is a December 2005 aviation graduate from Macomb Township, Mich., and is also employed at the College of Aviation as a flight instructor.

Related article
2006 Air Race Classic 'flight log'

Media contact: Thom Myers, (269) 387-8400, thom.myers@wmich.edu

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