Sky Broncos take regional title in tight race
Oct. 12, 2004
KALAMAZOO--Western Michigan University's precision flight team, the Sky Broncos, captured the National Intercollegiate Flying Association's Region III title in a tight race that concluded Oct. 9.
The 15-member WMU team, with 221 points, bested Ohio State University's 220-point total by a single point in the competition at Kent State University that began Oct. 5. Ohio University came in third with 101 points. The regional win, WMU's 13th in 14 years, secures a berth for the WMU team in NIFA's national championship, which is slated for April 26-30 at Kansas State University.
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 regional competition means the team qualifies for the national competition.
First-year coach James Whittles says the competition was closer than he would like it, but praised his young team for turning in a winning performance with only three weekends of practice to prepare for the event.
"Nine of our 15 team members are brand new competitors and the competition was two weeks earlier than normal," he notes. "Still, we had outstanding performances from the whole team, with 14 out of 15 team members placing at least once in the top 10 of an event."
The Sky Broncos were led in their regional effort by Garrett Heinz, a junior aviation flight science major from Birmingham, Mich., who came in second in the competition for the event's "top pilot" honors. He placed in all four flight events and one ground event.
Other WMU standout performances were turned in by team co-captain, Ian Alexander, a senior aviation flight science major from Grandville, Mich., and Travis Epp, an aviation flight science major from Clarklake, Mich. Epp tied for fourth place overall, and Alexander nabbed sixth place in the top-pilot standings. Heinz, Alexander and Epp are all team veterans and were members of the 2003-04 team that captured second place in national competition. WMU flight teams have placed among the top three in the nation for 13 consecutive years.
2003-04 Sky Broncos
Ian Alexander, a 2001 graduate of Grandville (Mich.) High School, is the son of Janice and Michael Alexander. He is a senior, majoring in aviation flight science and co-captain of the Sky Broncos. He took first place in both computer accuracy and preflight inspection, second in simulator, fifth in short-field landings and 10th in power-off landings.
Topa Augustine from Santa Fe, N.M., is the daughter of James Klukkert of Santa Fe and Nina Augustine of Port Hueneme Calif. She is a sophomore majoring in aircraft maintenance. Augustine took third place in aircraft recognition.
Robbie Beechuk from Plymouth, Mich., is the son of Lorraine and Daniel Beechuk of Plymouth. He is a senior majoring in finance and the team co-captain. Beechuk took first place in aircraft recognition and fifth in message drop.
Travis Epp from Clarklake, Mich., is the son of Jan Epp of Clarklake and Rodger Epp of Howell, Mich., and a senior majoring in aviation flight science. Epp took first place in navigation, third in computer accuracy, fourth in preflight inspection, eighth in power-off landings, 10th in simulator and 10th in message drop.
Amanda Evans from Traverse City, Mich., is the daughter of Mark and Patty Evans and a sophomore majoring in aviation administration. She took sixth place in computer accuracy.
Garrett Heinz from Birmingham, Mich., is the son of Joan and Warren Heinz. He is a junior majoring in aviation flight science. Heinz took first place in simulated comprehensive aircraft navigation, second in navigation, fourth in short-field landings, fourth in message drop and fifth in power-off landings.
David Jackson from Flat Rock, Mich., is the son of Sheryl Spencer and Dan Jackson. He is a senior majoring in aviation flight science. He took fifth place in computer accuracy, sixth in preflight inspection and seventh in simulator.
Patrick M. Jacobs from Farmington Hills, Mich., is the son of Martin and Patricia Jacobs and a sophomore majoring in aviation flight science. He took 10th place in aircraft recognition.
Jennifer K. Jakubiec from Commerce Township, Mich., is the daughter of Frank and Donean Jakubiec and a junior majoring in aviation flight science. She took 10th place in simulated comprehensive aircraft navigation.
Blake A. Koehn from Gwin, Mich., is the son of Kent and Denis Koehn and a junior majoring in aviation flight science. He took third place in simulated comprehensive aircraft navigation.
Benjamin Lauer from Alpena, Mich., is the son of Kenneth and Karen Lauer. He is a sophomore majoring in aviation flight science. He took fifth place in aircraft recognition.
Christopher J. Long from Grand Ledge, Mich., is the son of John and JoMarie Long and a freshman majoring in aviation business administration. He took eighth place in aircraft recognition.
Joshua Niedzwiecki from Waterford, Mich., is the son of Susan and Carl Niedzwiecki and a senior majoring in aviation flight science. He took ninth place in simulated comprehensive aircraft navigation.
Chris R. Reif from Lansing, Ill., is the son of Robert Reif of Munster, Ind., and Liv Reif of Lansing. He is a junior majoring in aviation flight science and aviation administration. He took second place in computer accuracy.
Tyler J. Rice from Indialantic, Fla., is the son of Kevin Rice of Indialantic and Sandra Goodson of Simpsonville, S.C. He is a freshman majoring in aviation flight science.
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