read as
Their Journey
continues at
the 2005 USPA
National Skydiving

Northwest Express Skydiving Team

In late 2004, the idea to form an 8-way skydiving team arose and by March 2005 we met for our first training weekend. Who were these characters who were about to devote a great deal of time, money and energy over the next six months in preparation for a chance to win a medal at the US National Skydiving Championships? The group, which later became known as Northwest Express comprised of Tye Graven, Kimberly Kaplan, and Eric Rushing from the old Tye Breakers team, Harry, Lee Roehrdanz, Sharon Stuart , BJ Hefler, Tyree Wilde and Jeff Johnson (JJ).

In the Beginning:
During our first weekend together our skydiving was very good. We all knew we had lots of potential. We knew we needed to quickly get an identity and began the Team naming process. After everyone’s input, we boiled the candidate list to three names and took a team vote. We were now called “Northwest Express”.

Here we Go:
So began the task of formulating a training schedule that we could integrate with nine people’s work and family schedule. Believe it or not, we were able to schedule two to three weekends a month, two camps and approximately 185 jumps. After about 50 jumps together, we traveled to our first training camp—Eloy, AZ in May 2005. We arranged for World Champion 8-way competitor, Gary Beyer, formally of Arizona Airspeed to coach us for three consecutive days. Gary taught us the block techniques used by Arizona Airspeed, refined our exit chunk, and instilled discipline in our flying technique. We learned and re-learned Rule 1 and Rule 2, which of course was to build the center first (1) and let the center build (2). We made 24 jumps at the camp and left with a 6.5 average. Next we were off to practice, practice, practice, enjoy the camaraderie of our teammates, work hard, and have a great summer of skydiving!

The Road to the Medals:
For the next two months, we worked on randoms, rule 1 and rule 2, drilled blocks, drilled blocks, and drilled blocks. We quickly found that blocks 5 (Wagga Wagga) and 7 (bipole donuts) were the blocks that really challenged our skills. We continued to make steady progress throughout May, June and July. None of this would have been possible without the exceptional video by JJ. Simply put, he is one of the best videographers in the sport today. He never misses a beat, captures every exit, and somehow hovers about 3 feet above the team capturing the best video ever!

During this period we really got to know each other, with many of us picking up nick-names that would last the summer (some even longer). Pop-Tart, Pig-Pen, Manifest Bitch (MB), Sweet Pea, and who can every forget Capt FC and the Mighty V. Our normal schedule was to prep, creep, gear-up, mock-up, jump, pack, debrief, then repeat, repeat, repeat. Challenges to not be the last person packed quickly arose. No one could beat BJ to be the first packed, so we didn’t even try because we knew it would be futile. The prize for being the last one packed was inheriting the FC title, until you could redeem yourself packing after the next jump. Of course, nobody wanted the name FC, so the race began—every time. Over the course of several dozens of pack jobs, there became two front runners for the bequeathed title of FC. Those two people were Harry Waller and Sharon Stuart. If anyone knows Harry, you’ll know why. Harry is originally from Tennessee, one heck of a good guy who likes to talk--really talk. We didn’t know whether it was a talking gene or being raised in the south—likely the southern background. Oh, Harry has lots of stories too, lots of them, Army medic stories, Airspeed Camp stories, and many others. Back to the packing. We’ll it seems that Harry also like to talk quite abit and tell stories while he packed. It wasn’t uncommon for several people to be closing their rigs and Harry would be just finishing flaking his canopy while telling about experiences at Airspeed Camp. Well, you get the jest—Harry quickly became the FC, a nick-name that he rarely shed all summer. We don’t know how Harry put up with it, but he put up with continued ribbing from 8 of his teammates. Even though it was all in jest, we’re all glad Harry took it in stride and provided some unique flavor to the team.

How about nicknames for others? Sharon--well, she just couldn’t keep coffee in her mug. Somehow, it routinely ended up on the front of her shirt—usually on the drive to the DZ. Sharon quickly became known as Pig-Pen. Kimme--whew, what a ball of energy and bubbly, bubbly, bubbly. Somehow, the name Pop-Tart fit. Lee was given or perhaps volunteered to be the manifest bitch or MB—a job he did admirably. We landed, we packed, we debriefed and MB had us on the manifest and a 15 min call, every time. Who could ask more. Gee, he even handled all the money situation for video, etc.

Oh, back to jumping. After dedicated practice during May, June, and July we were ready for camp no. 2. This time we brought Gary Beyer to the great Pacific Northwest and trained at Molalla. We worked our trouble blocks and fine-tuned the rest of the blocks and randoms. Gary also provided some very good insight about the mental side of skydiving, especially in competition and training methods for the home stretch going into nationals. At the end of camp no. 2, we had about an 8.0 average.

During the final month of practice, we trained as if every weekend was a meet. Ten round draws and no-repeats became the modus-operandus. At the end of Aug, we were averaging 8 plus points for a 10 round draw. Finally, the week before Nationals was upon us—the last few training jumps. As the weekend closed, we all knew our team was peaking. It was now our challenge to take this performance to the US National Championships in Perris Valley, CA.

read on as the Journey continues at
the 2005 USPA National Skydiving Champships


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