The winners of the United States Parachute Association (USPA) have been announced. Sarah Chamerlain and Jeff Harrigan have won the championship in the wingsuit flying category—both graduated from the University of Connecticut. The two will represent the United States in the 2018 World Cup Championships. The championship took place at Skydive Perris in California. Last year, they won gold at the World Cup in Florida.
Harrigan praised UConn skydiving Club for building his skills in skydiving. Harrigan started skydiving when he overheard one of his classmates talking about it.
“I overheard someone in one of my English classes talking about the skydiving class they just signed up for,” Harrigan said. He asked the student for more information about the skydiving course. “A couple of weeks later, we went out to the drop zone for the First Jump Course and I’ve been out there every weekend since.”
According to Harrigan, the UConn Skydiving Club is a place that has many options for skydivers with various skill levels, and the club provides a variety of different sized rigs. In addition, the skydiving club offers training. The club also possesses a “skydiving simulator” that Harrigan said was instrumental in building the body control skills necessary during freefall.
Harrigan’s teammate (and girlfriend) Sarah Chamberlain graduated with him. They met through skydiving. “We won Nationals for Wingsuit Acro this year, and we both won the National and World titles in Wingsuit Acro last year,” Harrigan said. “Before that, Sarah and I won several medals together on the UConn team.”
Harrigan thinks everybody can enjoy skydiving, and he encourages people to participate in a tandem skydive to try out the sport. “I encourage people to look into the statistics behind tandem skydiving,” Harrigan said. “I’ve never seen someone come down from a tandem and not enjoy it.”
Last year, Harrigan talked about the challenges of skydiving. “It’s a pretty unique challenge to try to stay focused during the jumps,” Harrigan said—wingsuit jumpers can plunge at speeds of close to 200 miles per hour. “We’ve seen videos of the competitors on YouTube, but it doesn’t really tell you how you measure up.”
“It always an honor to represent your country, even if it’s in a small niche competition like ours,” Harrigan said. “I feel lucky to have found a niche that I can fill that allows me the opportunity to represent my country.”
Harrigan said wingsuit jumping is still in development. “Wingsuit has only been around for a couple of years in the United States, so the discipline as a whole is still on the steep part of the learning curve in terms of the overall skill level,” Harrigan said. “That means we really have to keep pushing ourselves up that curve if we want to stay on top from year to year.”
Members of the UConn Skydiving club “share a common enthusiasm for parachute jumping.” According to the group’s webpage, they jump almost every weekend.
Back in 2011, Harrigan graduated from the University of Connecticut. In 2013, he decided to come back and further his education, mainly because of the benefits UConn’s Skydiving Club gave him. According to Harrigan, skydiving gave him a great love for aviation, and he is now pursuing an engineering degree and works for a aeronautics manufacturer in Connecticut called Pratt & Whitney. He said the skydiving club from the university played a role in where he is now and that it helped him further his career.