Team U.S. lands in town<br><i>Parachuters train for title at local drop zone</i>

Staff photo by Jared Dort

KEITH Bergeron sails into the drop zone during a practice jump Friday.

For the past week, the USP has been training at Skydive Sedona at Cottonwood for the World Parachuting Championships, and according to 34-year veteran Marty Jones, this area is the perfect place.

“This is a wonderful place to train. It’s much like the Adriatic Coast,” Jones said, referring to Croatia, the site of this year’s event. “The climates are very similar.”

The team's second reason for choosing Cottonwood is a little less complicated. Jones has family ties here.

Last year the USP team was in Phoenix, but the weather did not permit them to train. After hearing about the drop zone at the Cottonwood Municipal Airport, they decided to check it out. Jones then chose the site for their next training session.

In February of this year, Bill Jones, Marty's father, purchased the business — then Skydive Cottonwood. It only made sense to practice here.

Of the 10 members of the USP — five men and five women — only three were able to make the trip this week. Practice began Monday morning, and before the week’s end, each member averaged about eight jumps per day.

As part of their training for the world championships, the parachuters specifically worked on accuracy. A landing pad was set up in the drop zone, and in the center was a mark the size of a quarter. After exiting the plane at 2,500 feet, the jumpers not only had to maneuver toward the pad, but hit the designated mark with their heel.

“It’s not easy, but it’s a lot of fun,” said Keith Bergeron, whose father was on the U.S. team in 1969. “What’s nice is this is what we get to do year round.”

The world championships begin in September in Croatia. The U.S. will be competing against 26 teams from other countries. Each member will get 10 jumps in the accuracy category and freefall style.

Competitors’ arrivals will be welcomed in style. There are two football stadiums that will be packed with spectators, who will witness each jump and landing.

NOTES: Since 2000, the U.S. has consistently placed in the top 10. To make the team, an individual must finish in the top five at the national meet the previous year.

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