By Sue Moore
Schoolcraft native Thomas Hurst won a gold medal last week at the 2017 U.S. Parachute Association (USPA) National Skydiving Championships at Skydive Perris in Southern California. Hurst and his team, Air Force Rodisiac, took gold in the intermediate 8-way formation skydiving event.
Hurst, 21, is a cadet at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. He has completed more than 300 skydives. Hurst graduated in 2014 from Schoolcraft High School where he excelled in football, golf and academics. His parents are Edward and JoAnn Hurst, who now live near Marcellus. He has a sister, Chloe, who graduated from the Air Force Academy in 2016 and is stationed in Tucson, serving with the office of special investigations. Another sister, Caitlin, is a special education teacher in Mattawan.
“Skydiving is exhilarating,” Hurst said. “The team consists of my best friends and family now that I live in Colorado and travel to parachute competitions. We are all passionate about skydiving. My first jump was in July of 2015. It was crazy with my sister on the team. I saw her when I landed. After the second jump, I kind of understood a lot more.”
The National Championships drew more than 500 skydivers from across the country vying for medals in five skydiving disciplines. In formation skydiving, eight-person teams exit the airplane more than two miles above the ground and race against the clock to form prescribed geometric formations in freefall before opening their parachutes. A videographer jumps with the team to capture the maneuvers for the judges on the ground.
Hurst will graduate in the spring of 2018 and enter pilot training for two years, then spend at least 10 more years in the Air force. “I don’t have a background in flying, but I’m surrounded by officers who are pilots whose lifestyle I appreciate. We learn a lot about teamwork while parachuting but I also learned that under coaches Terry Haas and Kurt Phelps in high school. They taught me the bigger goal was becoming a man, not just winning a game. They were easy guys to learn from.”
Founded in 1946, the Parachute Association is a non-profit association dedicated to the promotion of safe skydiving nationwide, establishing strict safety standards, training policies and programs at more than 240 USPA-affiliated skydiving schools and centers throughout the United States. The association represents skydivers before all levels of government, the public and the aviation industry. It sanctions national skydiving competitions and records.