2021 SIU Air Race Classic teams

SIU female aviators shine in 2021 Air Race Classic – The team of Rachel Piacentini and Meadow Bowen (left) finished sixth in the 2021 Air Race Classic. Abby Lee and Vernecelyn Allen (center) were ninth overall while Gabrielle Escudero and Sophie Ottoson (right) finished 27th.  A total of 76 teams competed this year. (Photo by Yenitza Melgoza)

July 02, 2021

Two SIU aviation teams place in top 10 in 2021 Air Race Classic

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. – Two teams representing Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s School of Aviation finished in the top 10 in the 2021 Air Race Classic, the only women’s air race in the nation.

The Saluki Dawgs team of pilot Meadow Boden and co-pilot Rachel Piacentini finished sixth overall and second among college teams competing. The Saluki Sky Surfers team of pilot Vernecelyn Allen and co-pilot Abby Lee were ninth overall and third among college teams. The Saluki Aces team of pilot Sophie Ottoson and co-pilot Gabrielle Escudero, were 27th overall and ninth among college teams.

Ken Bro, the aviation program’s chief flight instructor and program coordinator, was pleased with the teams’ hard work and effort. This is the sixth year SIU has had at least one team compete in the event.

“We are so proud of these ladies’ accomplishments — this was an incredible competition, with a number of great pilots,” he said. “In a finish that came down to literal fractions of a second, and a very small margin of error, our teams did a phenomenal job. With such great rankings at the college and national levels, these Saluki competitors represented us in amazing fashion.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 44th Air Race Classic was an air derby, where teams selected a 5-leg, one-day route between June 12 and June 26. Teams this year focused on planning, navigation and projected course times; the goal was to complete their chosen course in their projected time. This year 76 of the 85 registered teams competed in the event, including 15 college teams.

The Air Race Classic celebrates the history of women in aviation. Amelia Earhart was one of 20 women to compete in the first women’s Air Derby in 1929.