Bits 'n' Pieces: Skydiving champion gets gold

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photoDustin Weeks competes as part of the Air Force Academy team, Air Force Paradigm.

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Dustin Weeks didn't join any team sports when he was a student at Evergreen High School.

But then again, nobody at the time thought of throwing the graduating class of '06 out of a plane.

Air Force Academy in Colorado changed that, and helped Weeks, a 25-year-old senior at the school, find his true sports calling.

As part of the school's Wings of Blue parachuting unit and Air Force Paradigm skydiving team, Weeks set two national records, won two gold medals and one silver at the 2013 U.S. Parachute Association National Collegiate Parachuting Championships in Arizona in early January.

His four-person Air Force Paradigm team also took a gold medal in November at the U.S. Parachuting Association Nationals in Arizona.

"It's funny because I was never in a sport at Evergreen, but the first one I competed in here, I did really well," Weeks said of his three years on the skydiving team.

In the group competitions, skydivers have 35 seconds to get into as many formations as possible. That usually provides enough time for three to five groupings, Weeks said.

In the January competition, Weeks and his team won a silver medal in four-way and a gold in six-way competition.

Weeks, who took the Outstanding Competitor Award, also won a gold medal and set two national records in the "sport accuracy" category, where a sky diver tries to land as close to the center of a bull's-eye on the ground as possible.

"It's basically a target shoot," said Weeks, who was about a meter and a half off of dead center in his first attempt and hit the center in his next three for a four-jump total score of 1.9 — setting the U.S. record for best average score and most consecutive dead centers.

The competitions were his final ones as a Cadet 1st Class. He'll stay at the school next year as a team instructor, though, before heading to Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas, where he'll learn to be a pilot, he said.

"It's kind of the Top Gun of (Air Force) pilot training," Weeks said. "I just love competition."

Weeks enlisted in the Air Force after graduating from high school, and while serving he learned of a program to help him join the Academy. During his year in a prep school program, he met military training leader Capt. Paul Yeagley, who had also been part of the Wings of Blue group.

"He used to tell me about it all the time and how awesome it is," Weeks said. "He got me really pumped. So getting in was my number one goal when I got to the academy."

He said the best part of competing was the camaraderie with teammates Danielle Griffith, John Skeele and Erin Brown in his four-way group, and also the friendships he's built with the rest of the 50-or-so members of the Wings of Blue squad.

"The Wings of Blue, it really is a family and we take care of each other in pretty much every facet of cadet life," Weeks said. "And my team, Air Force Paradigm, our unofficial name is Double Date (because it has two men and two women)."

They're not dating, though, he added.

"We're just best friends," he said.

Of his success, Weeks said he also wanted to thank his parents, Leonard and Elana Keil, who live near Orchards.

"I love them and want to thank them for raising me," Weeks said.

— Sue Vorenberg

Bits 'n' Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you'd like to share, email bits@columbian.com.