SIU’s Flying Salukis Finish Nationally in Top 5 for 13th Year

by Pete Rosenbery

The Southern Illinois University Carbondale Flying Salukis continued to be a consistent power in collegiate aviation with a fifth-place finish at the recent National Intercollegiate Flying Association championships.

Coach Nathan J. Lincoln, a senior lecturer in aviation management and flight in the School of Aviation, was pleased with the performance and optimistic about the team’s future. The team tied for fifth with the U.S. Air Force Academy in the May 9-14 competition. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Prescott won the title in the 28-team event.

“I am so happy with the performance of our very junior team during the week,” said Lincoln, noting that only one or two students on the 15-member team had prior national competition experience. The 2020 event was canceled due to the COVID 19-pandemic and the 2021 event was held virtually.

“The ability to stay in the top 5 for 13 years is an awesome accomplishment,” Lincoln said. “We have an amazing flight program and talented flight team members here at SIU. This just shows the strength of our program when compared to other collegiate aviation programs.”

Strong foundation

Lincoln was particularly pleased the Flying Salukis were third in the judge’s trophy category. The category awards points for all team members who competed regardless of whether they finished among the competition’s top 20 scorers in each event.

Benjamin Morris

“The third-place judges trophy shows that the quality of our entire team is one of the best in the country. I am looking forward to what they will accomplish in the future,” he said.

Results are available on the NIFA website.

Wendy Elliott

Wendy Elliott, a senior in aviation management from Boulder, Colorado, was the ninth overall scoring contestant with 66 points, and was the top scorer for the Flying Salukis and top female scoring pilot. Co-captain Benjamin Morris, a May 2022 graduate from Carbondale, was the team’s second top scorer with 55 points and 15th overall.

Other Flying Salukis who scored points were:

  • Grant Gillespie, sophomore, aviation management and flight, Fort Worth, Texas, 35 points; tied for 33rd place.
  • Dayne Snodgrass, junior, aviation management and flight, Byron, Illinois, 32 points; tied for 39th place.
  • Thomas Edgar, senior, piano performance and aviation flight, St. Charles, Illinois, 18 points; tied for 66th place.
  • Sydney Reijmer, a May 2022 graduate, aviation management and flight, Barrington, Illinois, 12 points; tied for 83rd place.
  • Samuel Cogan, senior, aviation management and flight, Alton, Illinois, 11 points; tied for 85th place.
  • Noah Ciocca, junior, aviation management and flight, Morton, Illinois, 11 points, tied for 85th place.
  • Angelina Kapp, co-captain, a May 2022 graduate, aviation technologies, aviation flight and environmental sustainability, Western Springs, Illinois, 8 points, tied for 97th place.
  • Amelia Anderson, senior, aviation management and flight, Johnston City, Illinois, 5 points, tied for 132nd place.

Additional Flying Salukis are:

  • Derrick Crider, senior, aviation flight and economics, Wheaton, Illinois.
  • Dale Miller, junior, aviation management and flight, Highland, Illinois.
  • Krzysztof Skubisz, senior, economics and aviation flight, Hoffman Estates, Illinois.
  • Matteus Thompson, senior, aviation technologies and aviation flight, Cincinnati, Ohio.
  • Joshua Weyers, a May 2022 graduate, aviation management and flight, Canton, Illinois.

Special visit

Among the special guests to be with the team during the May 14 banquet was Aymee Zimmerman, the mother of Flying Saluki team member Joseph Ermel. A sophomore in aviation technologies and aviation flight from Downers Grove, Illinois, Ermel died in October 2021, shortly after the squad won a 10th consecutive Region VIII championship to qualify for nationals.

“It was a heartwarming experience to be able to share the banquet experience with her,” Lincoln said. “The team was glad she was able to travel out to be part of everyone’s experience.”

Assistant coaches, university support play key roles

Elliott and Snodgrass will be team captains next fall. Lincoln credited assistant coaches Mike LeFevre, Matthew Santos and Gavin Voris – all assistant instructors in the School of Aviation and Flying Saluki alumni – in helping get the team ready to compete.

“We have an amazing support structure that allows for our continued success,” Lincoln said.

“Without their help preparing a team, none of our success is possible. We are also thankful for the support from university leadership, which allows us to showcase our amazing program and students.”