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2009 US Nationals Round 2 - Wasatch goes 7 for 7

by: Rob Sporrer

Seven amazing days were given to the pilots who made it for round two of the US Paragliding Nationals over The Wasatch in Salt Lake City, Utah. We flew over 500km during the week, and averaged over 72km per day. There is something magical about getting to race every day of a comp. This competition gave pilots the opportunity to explore some amazing places tucked up into the Wasatch. Crossing over Lone Peak was spectacular.

The task calling couldn’t have been better. Although some wanted shorter tasks as they were grinded down to a fine powder towards the end of the week. The opportunity presented itself to explore the entire range, Bill Belcourt and the rest of the sages on the committee didn’t let it slip away. So much so that we broke the out and return state distance record with Three lone Eagle Team Pilots coming into goal. Josh took that one, and his flying was truly inspiring all week. Brad was next in, and Pete Schaefer slowed his roll and found a final climb that put him into goal while eleven before him didn’t have the altitude to hit the launch turn point before gliding to goal at the school. Nice one Pete, and good job getting in the top 10 overall!

We flew South and our Danish Eagle & UP team pilot Mads Syndergaard form Denmark took the deep line and slipped away on a serious solo mission. He pushed hard and turned very little, landing at goal 23 minutes before Josh and the posse arrived. There we so many guys flying amazing all week. Mads won the other task we flew south as well by almost 9 minutes. Thank goodness the wind starting blowing from the other direction, and we started flying north, otherwise Mads would have likely continued taking us to school on that route. Nate was charging super hard as he has been since the 90’s. That guy is so fun to fly with, and you know you’re in the right place when you catch up with him and get to laugh your way to the top of a ripping thermal with him. Matt Beechinor (aka “Farmer”) keeps getting it done day after day. He is the model of consistency and as at the worlds, Farmer was the top finishing American consistently finding the line and success. Eagle Team Pilots continued to dominate the podium, and 7 out of the top 10 were Eagle Team Pilots.

Eagle Team Pilot Johnny Van Duzer took home the trophy for Serial Class Champion, and if I’m not mistaken this is a three-peat for his third title in a row. Johnny is always at or near the front of the pack, and makes that Trango 3 go better than some of the comp wings. Johnny is never one to follow, and always seems to pick a solid line, maybe that’s why he continues to crush.

Jochen Rink took the Sport Class by over 1000 points. This guy will be one to watch out for in the years to come if he doesn’t get ahead of himself. He was flying with the leaders all week.

The Eagle women represented as well with Cherie Silvera and Melanie Pfister tracking first and second overall in the Women’s Class. Cheri has been racing for a long time, and it was good to see here kick butt. Melanie had some really impressive finishes in Europe this Summer.

What an amazing week. Big thanks to Mark Gaskill for doing a fantastic job as Meet Director. Everything was very organized, and everybody was pretty happy. Lots of folks wanted me to thank Brad for getting the strippers to unfold gliders on launch. Josh Waldrop handled his Launch Director job like a pro, and set a really sweet vibe at launch with no major launch incidents the whole week. Big Thanks to LE Herrick, Marge Variano, and the rest of the chase crew. There were so many people that volunteered to help at this event. Chris Hunlow opened up his house for HQ, Alejandro, Evo, Zac, and all the other drivers and people that helped are what make these events possible. Will Gadd talked about “The Collective” up at the Canadian nationals a couple summer back. Everybody helps out to make these events possible. I wish to express my gratitude to all of the folks who volunteered their week to gift the pilots an amazing week.

For competition results, visit

National Championship Series

This year it was decided that we would name the US National Paragliding Champion over two events. Last year, the Nationals in the Owens Valley only had two days of flying, and we wanted to be sure there were more tasks counted in naming the Champion. Jugdeep Aggarwal held the first round of the US PG Nationals at Dunlap in California. It was an amazing week of flying, and combining those scores with the Utah scores gave us a very valid point total to crown Brad Gunnuscio the 2009 US National Champion. The combined scoring was set so that we would drop 1 out of every 4 tasks which scored at least 900 points. This was to promote racing, and has been done all over the world at different competitions for years. We would also count the rest of the scores which were not 900 point days, and there would be no discards for these days. We are still working out the wrinkles with the scoring, but should have a better idea on how it will all work for the next go round. After all was said and done, Brad Gunnuscio was Overall US National Champion, Eric Reed was second, and Nick Greece took 3rd. Eric finished second at the first round in Dunlap, and the Badger is always in the money. This guy just continues to win year in and year out. I think we need to do an interview and get inside the mind of the Badger for our next newsletter. Nick Greece gets some much deserved podium time. He has been right there so many times, and had one day of an event drop him off the podium.

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