airplane taking off

Ninth straight regional crown – The Southern Illinois University Carbondale Flying Salukis, shown practicing last month, captured a ninth-straight Region VIII title Nov. 2. The team will go for a 10th national title in program history in May at the National Intercollegiate Flying Association championships in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. (Photo by Russell Bailey)

November 12, 2019

Ticket punched: Flying Salukis head to national after ninth straight regional title

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. — With more than half of his squad potentially competing for the first time, Nathan Lincoln, head coach of Southern Illinois University’s Flying Salukis, had a few anxious moments leading to the National Intercollegiate Flying Association Region VIII competition. 

But a blend of veterans and youth during the Oct. 29-Nov. 2 event at Southern Illinois Airport was the right mix as the team won a ninth straight regional crown and will advance to national competition for a 50th time in 51 years. 

Winning nine straight regional titles is difficult. Lincoln said it’s a “shining example of what a prestigious flight school we have here at SIU.” 

“Winning with such a young team is an amazing accomplishment,” he added. “I am so proud of the way they worked together to not only better themselves but the team as a whole.” 

Taking both the ground and flight event divisions and having five of the top six scoring contestants, SIU finished with 341 points, nearly doubling second-place Lewis University. Purdue University was third. The top two teams advance to the national finals, May 18-23, in Oshkosh, Wisconsin at Wittman Regional Airport. 

Results are available on the NIFA website. 

Dominating performances throughout the week 

The team won eight of the 10 events, with co-captain Andrew Finer, the top scorer and junior co-captain aviation technology major from Des Peres, Missouri, winning three of the 10 events. Gavin Voris, a sophomore in aviation management and flight from Park Ridge, Illinois, won two events, as did Alex Evans, a junior in aviation management and flight from South Barrington, Illinois. Michael Ochsenbauer, a freshman in aviation technologies and flight from Forest Lake, Minnesota, won the short-field landing event and was sixth overall in scoring. 

Even as a young team, there was depth throughout the 10 events, as the squad placed: 

  • Five of the top six scorers in computer accuracy.
  • Four of the top five in message drop.
  • Four of the top five and five of the top seven places in power-off landings.
  • Five of the top nine in SCAN, or simulated comprehensive aircraft navigation.
  • Five of the top 11 in short-field landings.
  • Five of the top 12 spots in aircraft recognition.
  • The top three spots in traditional navigation. 

Held five of the top six scoring positions 

Following Finer, Voris, and co-captain Colin Heisler, a senior in aviation management, from Mount Prospect, finished second and third in scoring. Evans and Ochsenbauer were fifth and sixth overall, respectively. 

Also scoring for SIU in the event were, with hometown, major, points and overall placing were: 

  • Lukas Miller, senior, aviation management, Maroa, Illinois, 21 points for 12 points.
  • Wendy Elliott, freshman, aviation management and flight, Lafayette, Colorado, 12 points, 17th place.
  • Maxwell Hamilton, sophomore, aviation management, Geneva, Illinois, 8 points, 18th place.
  • Angelina Kapp, sophomore, aviation technologies and flight, Western Springs, Illinois, 6 points, 24th place.
  • Matthew Santos, sophomore, aviation flight, Chicago, 2 points,
  • Thomas Smith, senior, aviation management and flight, Springfield, Illinois, 1 point, 34th place. 

Other Flying Salukis with hometowns, year in school, and majors are: 

  • Andrew Bringle, junior, aviation management, Grayslake, Illinois.
  • Max Dunlavy, sophomore, aviation management and flight, Homewood, Illinois.
  • Benjamin Morris, sophomore, aviation technologies and flight, Murphysboro, Illinois.
  • Bisola Saliu, sophomore aviation management and flight, Denver, Colorado.
  • Renee Shiao, freshman, aviation management and flight, Naperville, Illinois.
  • Joshua Stoltz, freshman, aviation management and flight, Wildwood, Missouri.
  • Matteus Thompson, freshman, aviation flight, Cincinnati, Ohio.
  • Jacob Wohldmann, sophomore, aviation management, Cedar Hill, Mo. 

Assistant coaches, university support play key roles 

Lincoln credited assistant coaches Michael LeFevre, Robert Kay and Andrew Roadcap in helping prepare the young team. Lincoln was “extremely proud of how they were able to bring out the best in everyone.” 

“Without their help we would never be able to be this competitive,” he said. 

Lincoln also added the “unwavering support” of the team and its accomplishments make coaching and competing enjoyable. 

Looking ahead 

The nine-time national champions look ahead to the national competition. The team has nine straight top 3 national finishes, including titles in 2014 and 2015 and second-place showings in 2016 and in May 2019. 

Everyone from this fall will return in the spring. Even with the success, Lincoln notes the work ahead. 

“I was very pleased with how everyone did so well regardless of how many years they have been on the team,” he said. “We had everyone from their first competition to 4 years members winning events for us. The national competition is much more demanding and we will have to work hard to improve our skills to be ready.”