2022 Flying Salukis team photo

High ceiling – The SIU Carbondale Flying Salukis captured an 11th consecutive National Intercollegiate Flying Association regional title Oct. 26-29 and will seek a 10th national championship in May. Coach Nathan Lincoln, a senior lecturer in aviation management and flight in the School of Aviation, is in the third row, far left. (Photo provided)

November 03, 2022

SIU Flying Salukis soar again, capture 11th consecutive regional title

by Pete Rosenbery

dayne-snodgrass-sm.jpgCARBONDALE, Ill. — Paced by co-captains Dayne Snodgrass and Wendy Elliott, the Southern Illinois University Carbondale Flying Salukis turned in another dominating performance enroute to winning an 11th consecutive National Flying Association Region VIII championship.

With eight of the top 12 scoring contestants, SIU took both the ground and flight event divisions to handily win the Oct. 26-29 event at Purdue University. The team will advance in May to national competition for the 53rd time in 54 years.

wendy-elliott-sm.jpgThe Flying Salukis had 11 of the top 16 scorers and 12 in the top 25 in earning 391 points, more than double second-place Purdue University. Lewis University was third and Indiana State finished fourth. The national finals will be May 8-13 at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The overall point total is the highest the squad has achieved in the last 15 years, said Coach Nathan J. Lincoln, a senior lecturer in aviation management and flight in the School of Aviation.

“The ability of the team to perform this well shows that everyone is dedicated to performing at their best. I couldn't be prouder of our performance this week,” Lincoln said. 

Results are available on the NIFA website. 

The Flying Salukis won each of the nine events (of 10 total) they competed in. As a team, the squad placed:

  • The top five scorers in aircraft recognition and computer accuracy.
  • Top two finishers in aircraft preflight inspection.
  • Top three finishers in traditional navigation.
  • Five of the top six in power-off landing and SCAN, or simulated comprehensive aircraft navigation.
  • Five of the top seven in short field landing.
  • Five of the top 12 in message drop.
  • Two of the top seven finishers in ground trainer.

“Winning all the events that you compete in is not an easy accomplishment,” Lincoln said. “As a coach you only want them to perform their best regardless of how they place, but it is always a wonderful feeling to help individuals win the events they compete in. SIU Aviation has amazing students who always drive themselves to do their best.” 

Snodgrass, Elliott and Derrick Crider were the top three scorers, with Thomas Edgar and Krzyszlof Skubisz, finishing fifth and sixth overall, respectively. 

Elliott, a senior in aviation management and flight from Boulder, Colorado, won two events -- SCAN  and traditional navigation with seven teammates also winning events. 

Taking home individual event titles, with year in school, major, hometown, and overall placing, where needed, were: 

  • Computer accuracy — Thomas Edgar, junior, piano performance and aviation flight, Charles, Illinois.
  • Message drop — Krzyszlof Skubisz, senior, economics and aviation flight, Hoffman Estates, Illinois; Skubisz was drop master with Crider as pilot.
  • Power off landing — Dayne Snodgrass, junior, aviation management and flight, Byron, Illinois.
  • Short field landing — Derrick Crider, senior, economics and aviation flight, Wheaton, Illinois.
  • Aircraft preflight — Matteus Thompson, senior, aviation technologies and aviation flight, Cincinnati; tied for 16th place.
  • Aircraft recognition — Noah Ciocca, senior, aviation management and flight, Morton, Illinois; tied for seventh place.
  • Ground trainer — Amelia Anderson, senior, aviation management and flight, Johnston City, Illinois; 15th place.

Other Flying Salukis who scored points, with year in school, major, hometown, and overall placing were:

  • Samuel Cogan, senior, aviation management, Alton, Illinois, ninth place.
  • Dale Miller, senior, aviation management and flight, Highland, Illinois, 12th place.
  • Grant Gillespie, sophomore, aviation technologies and aviation flight, Fort Worth, Texas, tied for 16th place.
  • Jake Mack, freshman, aviation technologies and aviation flight, Lake Zurich, Illinois, 25th place.

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

  • Josie Boelter, freshman, aviation management and flight, Lomira, Wisconsin.
  • Ben Campbell, freshman, aviation management and flight, Richmond, Illinois.
  • Vassilios Georges, freshman, aviation management and flight, Chesterfield, Missouri.
  • Colin Ramsour, sophomore, aviation management and flight, Centralia, Illinois.
  • Mateo Torres, freshman, aviation management and flight, Park Ridge, Illinois.
  • Luke Trout, freshman, aviation management and flight, Holland, Indiana.

Strong senior leadership

Lincoln noted team members “did an amazing job with the events that they competed in.” He also pointed out the contributions of co-captains Snodgrass and Elliott. 

“They not only helped everyone with preparing for the competition; they also were the top two points recipients in the awards banquet,” Lincoln said. “To focus on the team’s development while also preparing themselves shows outstanding dedication and professionalism in what they are doing.” 

Snodgrass, who is from Byron, Illinois, said the team’s performance was “impeccable.” 

“I’m so proud of everyone and their accomplishments.  Being a captain for this team has not been a difficult job; everyone is very coachable and eager to learn,” he said. “All I had to do was be a good role model.  We showed up to regionals with the goal of proving that SIU is a top tier aviation school in the Midwest, and we accomplished that goal. Moving forward I expect to broaden our horizons and prove that SIU is a top aviation school in the nation.” 

Snodgrass chose SIU Carbondale because of its record of being a top aviation program. 

“From the moment I toured its aviation facilities and campus, I knew it was where I would start my career,” he said. “Everyone is welcoming, the fleet is large and diverse, and the promise of the quick completion of each certificate/rating made my decision final.” 

Elliott, who is from Boulder, Colorado, said she was proud of how well the team worked well together, teaching each other the skills needed to succeed. While she and Snodgrass took on a leadership role, she credits the team for its performance. 

“It wasn't just us making that happen,” she said. “Every member was so motivated to learn and grow, and it's awesome to watch the growth from the beginning to the end of competition. I think we have a long way to go for our national competition, but this was a really good starting point for our team and I believe we will be ready to compete in the spring.” 

Elliott selected SIU because of family in the area and low tuition costs. 

“Every time I would talk to a representative of SIU or their flight team, they were super friendly and made me feel like I would have a family if I went to SIU,” she said. 

Assistant coaches play pivotal roll 

Lincoln credits his coaching staff — Mike LeFevre, Matthew Santos and Gavin Voris — all assistant instructors and former Flying Salukis, with helping to motivate the team to high competition level. 

“Everyone is continuously trying to find ways to assist their development in competitions. There is a lot of pride in the coaches and team to continue the excellence of past performances,” Lincoln said. 

On the horizon 

The nine-time national champions dating back to 1977 will look to continue to build on the program’s legacy in the spring. The team has finished fifth or higher in the nation in each of the last 13 years, including national titles in 2011, 2014 and 2015. 

The team will return all of its members for the national competition in May. 

“Although our regionals win is a big motivator, there is a lot of work to do in preparing for a national’ competition,” Lincoln said.