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DeLand Tunnel Rage - Lives Up To Its Name

There's good reason why DeLand Tunnel Rage was overwhelmingly voted by 90% of the people present at the U.S. Skydiving Nationals 2000 as Best New Team: They simply blew away their competition in the 4-way Intermediate category to take the gold. They also have a secret: They have less than 100 team jumps together. But by training consistently at SkyVenture, located in Orlando, Florida, these newcomers prove to be an excellent case study of how wind tunnel training can affect overall performance.

It was only February of this year that Kyle Starck, captain, Thomas Hughes, Glenn Mendez and Eliana Rodrigueze even formed their team. Three of them--Starck, Hughes and Rodriguez--are SkyVenture employees, but as Mendez describes it, "Training in the wind tunnel is the great equalizer."

Take a cross-section of their own individual skydiving histories, and by no means, do these jumpers post large numbers of skydives in their logbooks any one year. Try a modest couple hundred, if that.

Hughes, the youngest in the group at age 19, started AFF in February of 1999, only a year and a half before this very competition. But he started working at the wind tunnel the same time he began AFF. He now has 240 jumps.

Rodriguez, the only female on the team, has been skydiving for about four and a half years and has about 600 jumps. She's been at SkyVenture for over two years.

Mendez is in his 7th year and counting upwards from 685 now. His father was a jumper back in the late '60s, but went on hiatus until his boy started jumping. Mendez's father came out of retirement to video all of Tunnel Rage's practice skydives all the way up to the Nationals, at which point the team hooked up with cameraman Wyat Dreues from Elsinore for the actual meet.

Only Starck has cracked the 1000-mark. Both of his parents are skydivers, and he grew up around it. He "allegedly" did his first tandem at age 7 with his father, started packing at 11 and began AFF at 16. He did a bit of RW when he started, but turned into a freefly junkie very quickly. He estimates 1000 of his 1500 jumps are freeflying. But again, he also works at the tunnel.

Their only competition experience as a team came from three meets within the Florida Skydiving League. But they noted, they performed "not so well." On the other hand, the received second in one, and on another, they lost over 12 points due to video busts. They used the competitions more as a training ground, and they agreed they still had a lot to work out.

Says Starck, "All the practice jumps before this (Nationals) were pretty rough. We weren't feeling very comfortable with things. We took a big chunk of time and went into the tunnel and worked out a lot of the problems we had."

Rodriguez adds, "We all have great individual skills, and we had to put it together. It was hard to synchronize at first, we tried to go too fast. We had to get the timing right."

So for a full month and a half between the last FSL meet and Nationals, they didn't skydive at all--they went into the tunnel instead. "We did nothing as a 2-way, nothing individually, everything as a 4-way," says Mendez. They consulted each other for feedback.

As a result, "We turned a 15 1/2 average as opposed to a 10 average," continues Mendez. In just six weeks, folks

They call the solid column of air at SkyVenture, "a phenomenal training environment." And they are excellent proof of their theory and team name. The only thing they were concerned about was their exits at the Nationals. But that obviously worked out.

So, Starck got a wonderful 22nd birthday present with their win on Sunday, October 1st, and now Mendez's mother has to go up with Starck on her first tandem, per their agreement if they won.

Hughes says, "All those people who think we have an unfair advantage, we don't. Buy some time in the tunnel, and you'll see."




By on 2000-10-03

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