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Did You Know...

... that Mass Defiance still holds the amateur record average?

Mass Defiance in 2004
posted Nov 11th, 2008 - The NSL News story on 7 November 2008 covered the impressive progression of Arizona Divewerkz, which recently culminated with a 19.0 average at the USPA Nationals 2008 and the unofficial title of the best "amateur team" in the USA.

Another team name has been mentioned quite a few times, mostly whenever the NSL News covered the best "amateur teams" in the sport. Mass Defiance from New England actually still owns the highest meet average of the teams that can be considered weekend or amateur teams. The original lineup (Ben Liston, Jim Rees, John Silva, Brian Stephens, with Rick Smith on camera) posted a 19.3 average at the USPA Nationals in 2007.

Arizona Divewerkz and Mass Defiance both formed their first lineups at the same time but competed in different competition classes at their first national championship in 2004. AZDW first attended a few AA Class meets of the Southwest Skydiving League before placing 9th at the USPA Nationals in 2004. Mass Defiance started in the AAA/Advanced Class and placed 4th with a 12.8 average at the same event.

The NSL News coverage of the USPA Nationals 2008 is brought to you with the help of:
Mass Defiance exit in 2007
The New England team then won the USPA Advanced Class gold medals a year later with a 15.4 average and had to move up into the Open Class. Arizona Divewerkz took the MD spot on the podium and won the next set of Advanced Class gold medals with a 14.6 average. Eventually, both teams ended up together in the Open Class competition for the first time at the USPA Nationals 2007.

That was the event where Mass Defiance's original lineup posted the 19.3 average, the highest US amateur result to date. Arizona Divewerkz already had a few personnel changes by then and posted a 15.8 average at the same competition in Ottawa.

The beginning of the 2008 season brought personnel changes for both teams. MD's Center Inside, Ben Liston, had moved to Guatemala, and Jim Rees took a break from training and competition. Dennis Rook took the Tail slot, as the NSL News reported by then, and the team could only train a few days when Ben Liston came back to visit his home turf in New England.

Mass Defiance's Round 9 at the USPA Nationals 2008 - see video
MD scoring progression 2004 - 2008
Arizona Divewerkz, with new Center Outside Chad Smith, kept moving upward, while Mass Defiance was struggling with the logistics. The stage was set for an interesting showdown of the best two "amateur teams" in the USA at the Open Class competition of the USPA Nationals 2008. Mass Defiance had already posted an 18.1 average at the Paraclete XP Money Meet 2008 with Dennis Rook in the Tail slot.

It turned out to be the exciting race that was to be expected - until Round 10 came along. The 1-pointer for Mass Defiance is still on the leaderboard, and there is also a link to the video of this round. The NSL News had mentioned earlier that more information of the disastrous round would follow. NSL-TV never caught the New England team live on camera in Eloy. However, the team members had no problem talking about the incident.

Mass Defiance's videographer since 2005, Steve "Scuba" Feldman, was not satisfied with his own performance at the USPA Nationals 2008 after missing a few exit counts here and there in Eloy. He decided to change his focus and keep the attention on the movement of the Center Outside beginning in Round 10. Mass Defiance's Center Inside, Ben Liston, had been his key person until then.

Ben Liston explains the incident of Round 10
Unfortunately, the first jump with a different plan for filming the exit came together with an incident during the team's climbout procedure, setup and exit count. After the team members had climbed out, settled in their slots, and Center Outside John Silva started his swing, Center Inside Ben Liston detected a flaw that would have made the launch difficult for a team member. He aborted his own countdown, began with adjustments in the positions and wanted to start all over.

It was too late for Steve "Scuba" Feldman. He had taken the move of the Center Outside for granted and left the plane at the time when he expected the team to follow. The damage was done, and he made his way back up to the team to capture three of the last formations within working time. The judges accepted one of them as a scoring formation and awarded a 1-point score for Round 10.

Exciting competition between Arizona Divewerkz and Mass Defiance
Mass Defiance in the windtunnel
It was a very unfortunate end of an exciting race, which was still open before Round 10. Arizona Divewerkz had won five rounds, Mass Defiance fought back successfully in three rounds, both teams tied their scores only once, in Round 1. Mass Defiance was confident going into Round 10 after a very good Round 9, which is now featured on NSL-TV. There was only a 3-point difference to Arizona Divewerkz.

The 1-pointer for Round 10 threw Mass Defiance far back in the world class field of 4-way teams and left a 16.7 average on the leaderboard. Arizona Divewerkz delivered a great 21-pointer in the last round and would most likely have defended the team's 3-point lead successfully. AZDW has now turned into the top amateur team in the USA, and MD will be the challenger from here on.

Mass Defiance moves on and puts together a windtunnel competition at SkyVenture New Hampshire on December 13. Ben Liston is the event manager and will follow up with more information. It will be a 10-round event on one day. Ben Liston can be contacted directly by e-mail.

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