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Sky Broncos win regional title

Oct. 17, 2006

KALAMAZOO--Western Michigan University's precision flight team, the Sky Broncos, captured the National Intercollegiate Flying Association's Region III title last week to qualify for the national championship next spring.

The 15-member WMU team captured both the ground and flight events in the Oct. 10-14 event held at Ohio State University's home field in Columbus, Ohio. OSU came in second and Kent State University took third. The regional win marks the 15th time in 16 years the Sky Broncos have won the regional title. The win qualifies the team for the May 7-12 national championship, which also will be held at OSU. WMU flight teams have placed among the top three in the nation for 15 consecutive years.

NIFA regional competitions pit schools against each other in five ground events and three 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 regional competition means the team qualifies for the national competition. In addition to their overall win at this year's regionals, the Sky Broncos captured both the flight and ground event trophies, winning four of the eight judged events.

In addition to the eight judged events in the team competition, a ninth event, navigation, was scored, with the results added to the other events to determine individual rankings for top-pilot honors. WMU aviators captured the top two slots in that event, and team Co-captain Blake R. Koehn, a senior aviation flight science major from Gwinn, Mich., won the navigation event and was named the regional competition's top pilot. Koehn shares team leadership responsibilities with Benjamin R. Lauer, a junior aviation flight science major from Alpena, Mich.

WMU's Jennifer Jakubiec, a senior aviation flight science major from Commerce Township, Mich., was named top-scoring female contestant for the competition.

"This was a terrific showing by what is really a fairly young team," said Sky Bronco Head Coach James Whittles of his team's performance. "We have just six returning team members and only one with experience in the flight events, but everyone stepped up and turned in great performances.

In addition to Whittles, coaching duties for the Sky Broncos were handled by assistant coach and flight instructor Steve Tkachuk, as well as two former Sky Broncos standouts, Robert Beechuk and Travis Epp.

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

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