WMU Air Race Classic team places fifth in collegiate division

contact: Cheryl Roland
| WMU News
Photo of Sara Karsten and Katherine Vena.

The Air Race Classic ran June 22-25.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.— Two Western Michigan University women pilots competing in the Air Race Classic cross-country flying event for women aviators learned June 27 they captured fifth place in the race's collegiate division and 11th place overall.

Sara Karsten and Katherine Vena, representing WMU's College of Aviation, finished the 2,200-mile course from Fredericksburg, Virginia, to Fairhope, Alabama, using two and a half of the four days allotted for the race. They were honored at the event's June 27 concluding banquet for completing the eighth leg of the race--from Union City, Tennessee, to Gadsden, Alabama—with the fastest time of any of the 54 competitor teams.

The overall winner of the June 22-25 race as well as the winner of the collegiate division was a team from Southern Illinois University. A total of 17 collegiate teams were among this year's competitors.

The 2015 race, which has its roots in an event that began in 1929, followed a zigzag route with  flybys at checkpoints in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Missouri and Tennessee. The 10 stops on this year's race included two in Michigan—the Three Rivers Municipal Dr. Haines Airport and the Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport.

WMU's Karsten, who was flying in the race for the second year in a row, calls this year's event "incredibly rewarding and physically challenging." She notes that the heat encountered during the final southern legs of the race passed 105 degrees raising concerns of heat stroke among racers flying small aircraft with little air circulation.

"The most rewarding part of the race, though, was the communication we had as a team and the increase in confidence we both experienced as we shared decision making, tested our flight skills and relied on our ability adjust to weather conditions."

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