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SDC Rhythm XP could not offer the same opposition as they had in past years, due to Doug Barron's injury, and the team did not have enough time with substitute Rob Radez to get to at least a similar performance level and put some pressure on Airspeed. The Golden Knights did not even complete a single round in 4-way or in 8-way. They were ordered back to their Army headquarters when Hurricane Florence threatened the Carolinas.
All of this made it easier than ever for Airspeed to win again. Good news for Airspeed? No, very bad news.
Talk to team captain Niklas Hemlin and he will tell you how important it is for a team to learn and practice dealing with pressure and to use it properly to push performance to the peak level. Airspeed was hoping for a serious test before meeting the Belgian 4-way world champions at the upcoming world meet, and it did not happen at Chicagoland.
Hurricane Florence had a similar effect on the Golden Knights. The U.S. Army team posted their last scores at the USPA Nationals 2017 and this year's championship would have been their last and only test before meeting Russia in Australia. It was also the first time in recent U.S. Formation Skydiving history that the Golden Knights did not compete at the national championships.
All of that was simply bad news and bad luck and all three U.S. teams will do their best to forget about the national championships and win medals for the U.S. delegation at the world meet.
There was great news, too, so let's get to that quickly.
The 4-way Intermediate Class competition was once again the biggest event of the national championships, with 32 teams competing. Year by year, the number of teams in this category roughly matches the combined total of 4-way open and 4-way advanced teams.
This year, the host separated 4-way events for logistical reasons and Intermediate Class teams had their own three days of competition to launch the traditional Formation Skydiving competition of the USPA Nationals. It was the best move from my humble perspective, even though there were voices who complained about the time frame. Competitors who were also planning to compete in 8-way had to wait until the 4-way Open/Advanced Class events would be completed before they could get back in the air.
USPA Nationals 2018
|Rank||4-way Intermediate Class||15,7||A,E,Q,M||11,9||1,22||J,P,F,8||2,20||13,O,K||B,D,6||4,G,14||21,N,19||C,L,H,18||Total||Avg|
|2||SDC Rhevolution XP||13||22||11||11||15||-3||12||14||16||-1||12||11||-||137||13.7|
|7||The Mostly Asians||9||-1||17||-1||12||9||13||10||10||15||10||9||-||114||11.4|
|8||Carolina Ice XP||9||18||12||8||-1||13||9||9||15||9||11||-||113||11.3|
|10||TSC Off Cadence||9||14||10||9||13||10||7||-2||10||-1||7||-1||8||-||97||9.7|
|12||USAF Wings of Blue||8||-1||17||9||9||13||-1||8||6||10||-1||6||-1||9||-||95||9.5|
|15||DMS Freakz on Couches||9||16||10||8||5||9||9||9||9||8||-||92||9.2|
|21||Spaceland Toxic Envy||6||10||8||6||10||6||6||8||6||6||-||72||7.2|
|25||JJ & The Vets||5||10||5||6||9||4||5||8||3||5||-||60||6.0|
|27||Help Help Me Rhonda||4||5||6||4||7||6||5||7||6||6||-||56||5.6|
|30||Carolina Relative Humility XP||4||6||3||5||6||5||4||7||3||6||-||49||4.9|
I understand the point of being at the event site and waiting for a few days. However, I have never been at a skydiving event where it was difficult to spend time with my favorite people on the planet, whether it was for a weather situation or due to scheduling purposes by the host or meet director. Yes, it is painful not to jump when you are just perfectly ready for it but we are used to this, as weather is a major player in the sport. On top of that, the time spent at the hosting site of the USPA Nationals was still the same, just in a different way.
The 4-way Intermediate Class competition has always been very competitive and the battles for USPA medals have been as exciting as similar ones in the Open and Advanced Classes or at any other events, including world championships. It just happens on a lower scoring and performance level and it does not get the same attention. Usually.
It was different this time. I have never experienced as much attention as the Intermediate Class Competition received this year. And don't the teams deserve it so badly? In the end, the Intermediate Class competition at USPA Nationals has been generating the biggest leaderboard in the world for one event, year by year.
There was more attention even during the competition draw and the meet briefing and the Intermediate Class teams had their own award ceremony, as well. The scores were posted timely almost all the way through the 10-round meet and the teams could follow the ups and downs on the leaderboard much easier. The judges did not have to jump back and forth between Intermediate and Open/Advanced Class sequences. The calls were shorter and reliable.
Every year, you can almost expect a close race and a jump-off for the medal positions. It happened again. The NSL News covered the drama of a re-jump situation and its implications and another jump-off for bronze medals comprehensively because the U.S. world class teams in Open/Advanced did not start before the Intermediate Class competition was completed.
The Intermediate Class is the breeding ground for future U.S. top competitors and world champions. It only makes sense, logistically and athletically, to run the event separately and independently, and I had never thought about it before. It was so much a part of the USPA Nationals procedure that only 4-way, 8-way, 16-way and 10-way were treated as separate events, that a different format was not thinkable.
This year's nationals changed my mind and showed me that there could be an even better way to run this first-class event. It could even be an option to split the days if some competitors cannot be on the ground for a few days or make “only” training jumps with their 8-way fellows. The meet management at world meets usually splits the jumping day in a 4-way and an 8-way half to make it reliable enough. USPA could split a jumping day of the 4-way event into one-half of Open/Advanced and another half for only Intermediate Class competition. However, I vote for the complete separation after this year's great experiences.