Women's Vertical World Record Camp: TeamworkBy Melissa Nelson on 2013-08-29
Teamwork: work done by several associates with each doing a part but all subordinating personal prominence to the efficiency of the whole.
Have you ever been a part of a team? Felt the pressure of performing? Emotionally and physically put your efforts on the line for a common goal? That’s what we did August 1st – 3rd – a group of 23 women from Mexico, Canada, Dubai, Sweden and all over the US converged to participate in the Women’s Vertical World Camp hosted by myself in the cornfields of Skydive Chicago during Summerfest.
This is one of several camps in preparation of the upcoming Women’s Vertical World Record attempts to be held November 27th – December 1st at Skydive Arizona. The specialty of this camp was designed so women could experience 2-plane shots, practicing different exits, flying in a formation, and on the last day, attempt to break a state record. (The current Illinois Women’s Vertical Formation State Record an 18-way set in 2005.)
Every camp faces their own set of unique challenges – cutaways, fatigue, nerves, etc. Our camp especially did. Participant, and overall badass, Stephanie Eggum died from a low reserve deployment on our 3rd jump of the first day of the camp.
An hour later after the news digested, we re-grouped. I asked, “I’m going to jump. Does anyone want to join me?” Unsure how to move on, the entire group agreed they were ready to jump. “Then we’re going to do 2-plane shots.” Some gentleman jumpers joined in to be the base and grew our group to practice 30+ ways. Each jump a special camaraderie was developing even though our jumps only yielded 19 to 20-ways.
The next day we awoke to cloudy skies, but met to discuss the finer techniques of formation skydiving including exit techniques, showing videos from the current 138-way co-ed Vertical World Record, talking about the mental and physical aspects and what it takes to get on a world record skydive. We also took this time to introduce ourselves, state our home dz, jump numbers and goals. Not too much later the skies started clearing and we were back up doing 2-plane shots.
After lunch the camp’s direction shifted gears in selecting a group to break the state record. “This is where it gets emotional,” I began. “It’s not political or playing favorites. This is about being a team. Even if you’re not selected to be on the record, you’re still as much a part of this team. Our goal is to build the safest, largest state record.” We finished the day building 14-ways.
Saturday’s weather couldn’t have been more picture perfect – high, puffy clouds, light winds, and 70°F temps. There was an intense feeling as we walked together as a group to the skyvan. We were 20. The plane ride up began with clapping, the silence. From the first day till now, some of the women weren’t ready to build a 20-way. But now, they stood at the door with the experience and skills to be a part of a team, to build a record.
We huddled around 11,000’ and I said, “I know you can do this, that’s why you’re here. Now you have to know it too. Be safe and let’s build a record!” The skyvan door opened and I could feel my own heart beating faster. I smiled, “Ready, set go!”
The formation didn’t build on the first jump. Nor the second or third. I re-engineered the formation and we tried again. No success. I re-engineered it again. By this time, the whole drop zone was rooting for us. Spectators watched us intently with awe as we’d board the plane and greet us when we landed asking if we were successful. Although each jump wasn’t successful, something greater was happening – we were truly becoming the essence of a team.
It’s easy to go up and do one jump and be successful. But can you do it over and over? Especially after two days of an intense camp, lack of sleep and having lost a comrade? We really had to dig deep for the energy and motivation; we had to keep doing our best even when we were doing our job and others weren’t; we had to be patient and keep moving forward.
The sun was low on the horizon and the temperatures were slightly dropping. We huddled together on the ground in support of each other. “I believe in you girls. Level, slot, dock. Be safe, let’s do this!” We cheered loudly as we got on the skyvan. We clapped, hooted and hollered on take-off and became quiet with focus. “No pressure, but now there’s pressure. This is the last jump of the camp and our last attempt. Stay focused. Stay safe. Let’s build it!” We exited cleanly. The stingers were docking. Wackers were building. Levels were awesome. The formation was flying!
When we landed we ran to each other because the dive just felt so good. It felt so good we were unsure if we made the state record. We smiled, laughed, high fived and hugged. In that moment, it didn’t matter if we built it or not. We knew how much we progressed as a team and that was our best jump together!
After reviewing the video, we saw we were super close to building the formation, but at the last moment, ditters were going off and we broke off. So close!!
At the close of the camp I didn’t feel defeated. I was lucky to have a great group of girls who stuck by each other’s sides, improved their flying, and was so determined that we embraced the real spirit of teamwork. And in that, we were successful.
My heart goes out to the Eggum family. Your daughter was determined to be on the next Women’s Vertical World Record. We will remember her during the attempts. Much respect.
This camp’s success also goes with having to give praise to the many who helped make it happen:
Mike Bohn from Colorado came out to assist in the camp as a coach
Camera: Norman Kent, Jim Harris, Brandon Chouinard
(To view or orders from Summerfest, please check out Norman Kent’s gallery here: http://www.normankent.com/photogallery-eventphotos-summerfest2013)
BASE BOYS: James Garnant, Ben Roane, Paul Jones, BJ Miclaeli, Pat Collins, Dennis Cowhey, Ryan Risberg, and Doug Legally
WVWR Camp Participanats:
Melissa Nelson – Utah
Hermine Baker – Sweden
Julie Wittenburg - Dubai
Amberly Brown – Hawaii
Cate Allington – New York
Stacy Powers – Pennsylvania
Helen D’Astous – Canada
Katie Blue – Texas
Logan Donovan – New York
Noelle Mason – Florida
Stephanie Eggum - Illinois
Kelly Isenhoff - Tennessee
Valentina Solis – Mexico
Natalie Pitts – Colorado
Tyfani Detki – Florida
Emily Royal – Missouri
Amy Cowhey – Illinois
Paula Rodrigues – Mexico
Jen Sensenbaugh – Texas
Jen Frayer - Indiana
Alyssa Manny – Colorado
Stephanie Beeguer - Switzerland
Lauren Piscatelli – North Carolina
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