SIU Flying Salukis team photo

High ceiling – The SIU Carbondale Flying Salukis captured a 12th consecutive National Intercollegiate Flying Association regional title Oct. 1-7 and will look to 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. (Photos provided)

October 16, 2023

SIU Flying Salukis easily surge to a 12th straight regional crown, head to nationals

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. — With co-captain Dayne Snodgrass and senior Krzysztof Skubisz leading the way, the Southern Illinois University Carbondale Flying Salukis once again proved their mettle in an overpowering performance to win a 12th straight National Intercollegiate Flying Association (NIFA) Region VIII championship.

Dayne-Snodgrass-sm.jpgSnodgrass, a senior in aviation management and flight from Byron, Illinois, won his second straight regional championship along with top pilot honors, while Skubisz, a senior in economics and aviation flight from Hoffman Estates finished second. In winning both the ground event and flight event titles, the Flying Salukis had nine of the top 14 scorers to overwhelm Purdue University and host Lewis University, Oct. 1-7 at Lewis University Airport in Romeoville, Illinois.

Krzysztof-Skubisz-sm.jpgThe title propels the nine-time national champions to the NIFA championships in May for the 54th time in 55 years.

Coach Nathan J. Lincoln, a senior lecturer in aviation management and flight in SIU’s School of Aviation, is pleased with the 22-member team’s results after just over a month of practice following tryouts.

“We have a lot of new faces on the team, and it was great to see the interaction to better themselves and each other in the interest of the team’s performance,” he said.

Results are available on the NIFA website.

Dominating performance

Grant-Gillespie-sm.jpgThe Flying Salukis won seven of the nine events they competed in, with Grant Gillespie, a junior in aviation technologies and aviation flight, Fort Worth, Texas, and Snodgrass both winning two events.

As a team, the squad placed:

  • The top five scorers in short field landing.
  • Top two finishers in aircraft preflight inspection and ground trainer events.
  • The top three finishers in traditional navigation.
  • Five of the top seven, including the top four finishers, in computer accuracy.
  • Five of the top eight in power-off landing.
  • Five of the top nine in aircraft recognition.
  • Five of the top 10 in SCAN, or simulated comprehensive aircraft navigation and message drop. 

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

  • Aircraft preflight inspection — Benjamin Campbell, sophomore, aviation management and flight, Richmond, Illinois, 11th place.
  • Aircraft recognition — Grant Gillespie, Fort Worth, Texas, 8th place.
  • Computer accuracy — Jake Mack, sophomore, aviation technologies and aviation flight, Lake Zurich, Illinois, 13th place.
  • Ground trainer — Grant Gillespie, Fort Worth, Texas.
  • Power off landing — Samuel Cogan, senior, aviation management, Alton, Illinois, 5th place tie.
  • Short field landing — Dayne Snodgrass, Byron, Illinois, 1st place.
  • Traditional navigation — Dayne Snodgrass was the pilot with Samuel Cogan as safety observer. 

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

  • Krzysztof Skubisz, Hoffman Estates, Illinois, 2nd place.
  • Derrick Crider, senior, economics and aviation flight, Wheaton, Illinois, 7th place.
  • Mateo Torres, sophomore, aviation flight and aviation technologies, Park Ridge, Illinois, 12th place.
  • Vassilios Georges, sophomore, aviation management and flight, Chesterfield, Missouri, 14th place.
  • Liam Harrison, freshman, aviation management and flight, Libertyville, Illinois, 21st place.
  • Thomas Nguyen, freshman, aviation management and flight, Broomfield, Colorado, 28th place. 

Looking ahead 

The team isn’t resting on this performance, Lincoln said. The roster features 11 freshmen, and Skubisz and Crider — who finished second and seventh overall in scoring — will graduate in December.

“We had a great performance at regionals, but it has also shown us some areas that need improvement before nationals,” he said. “Coaches and team members have already had many conversations on what we need to do moving forward to achieve success at nationals.”

The Flying Salukis are also very aware of their legacy.

“Everyone involved with the SIU flight team understands the legacy of what they are involved in,” Lincoln said. “We take great pride in representing ourselves as well as the university and carrying on the tradition of success that we have had.”  

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

  • Adriana Alvarez, freshman, aviation management,
  • Jonathan Arackal, sophomore, aviation management and flight, Hanover Park, Illinois.
  • Carson Benedict, freshman, aviation management and flight, Lake in the Hills, Illinois.
  • Josie Boelter, sophomore, aviation technologies, Lomira, Wisconsin.
  • Michael Chebuske, freshman, aviation flight, Louis.
  • James Cone, freshman, aviation flight, Byron, Illinois.
  • Kyra Hilsabeck, freshman, aviation management and flight, Edelstein, Illinois.
  • Jeremy Murray, freshman, aviation management and flight, Lockport, Illinois.
  • Charles Ross, freshman, aviation flight, Lake Zurich, Illinois.
  • Alana Stahl, freshman, aviation management and flight, Sandwich, Illinois.
  • Luke Trout, sophomore, aviation management and flight, Holland, Indiana. 

On the horizon

Lincoln credits his coaching staff — Mike LeFevre, Sydney Reijmer and Matteus Thompson — all former Flying Salukis, for their contributions.

“Their dedication and commitment to the team is what makes our success possible,” Lincoln said.

The nine-time national champions dating back to 1977, including in 2011, 2014 and 2015, will look to continue to build on the program’s legacy in early May in Janesville, Wisconsin. The team has finished fifth or higher in the nation in each of the last 14 years, including the in the top three in 11 of the last 12 years.