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Published: Tuesday, 1/11/2011

Perrysburg parachutist earns pair of medals for perfect formation

Asked to provide an estimated guess of how many times he has jumped out of an airplane, John Nygard doesn't estimate.

"Six-hundred thirty-nine," he responds.

Nygard has only been doing it since June of 2008, meaning that over the past year and a half he has averaged about 35 jumps per month.

No sprained ankles in that time. No blood either. Just two gold medals.

Nygard, 21, a Perrysburg resident, a St. John's Jesuit graduate, and currently a senior at the U.S. Air Force Academy, captured a pair of first place finishes at the -- this is a mouthful -- U.S. Parachute Association National Collegiate Parachuting Championships, a multiday event that wrapped up Jan. 3 in Eloy, Ariz., near Phoenix.

Nygard prevailed in two-man vertical formation and two-man accuracy.

His six-member speed team, where the goal is for six individuals to exit the plane and build a formation -- finished second.

Jumping from a plane is exhilarating. It's even better when an award ceremony follows.

Nygard earned two gold medals at the U.S. Parachute Association National Collegiate Parachuting Championships. Nygard earned two gold medals at the U.S. Parachute Association National Collegiate Parachuting Championships.
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"Oh absolutely," Nygard said. "When we're in competition we're just so focused to be able to see all the hard work and hours of training we put into it paid off. To fly almost as perfectly as we've ever done is very rewarding and very exciting."

Nygard enrolled in the Air Force Academy -- where questionable students need not apply -- so he could pursue his lifetime goal of being an astronaut.

Nygard expects to graduate in May, spend some of two months traveling Europe and the other part hanging out in Perrysburg, before attending Air Force pilot training. He will be commissioned as a second lieutenant.

Nygard is known as a jump master, a title which requires one to instruct sophomores at the Academy.

"You're in charge and responsible for the instruction and safety and execution of parachuting operations," Nygard said.

On many days, classes are conducted out on the big blue sky.

Nygard admits that 639 figure he gave could be off slightly.

"I've had some times where I've forgotten to log one or two," he said. "But that's pretty close to the actual numbers."

During holiday breaks at school, Nygard and fellow students on the competition team leave the Academy's home in Colorado Springs and travel to competitions and joy trips. They've been to Arizona, California, and Texas.

In September Nygard earned a bronze medal at the U.S. Nationals in Chicago. It was an all-age competition, the best of the best in the country.

At the recent collegiate event, where Nygard won his two gold medals, the Air Force Academy competed against teams and clubs from West Point, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and RIT.

Predictably, with its immense resources and opportunities, the Air Force Academy did well.

"We're fortunate to be able to receive the training we do," Nygard said.

Contact Ryan Autullo at: rautullo@theblade.com or 419-724-6160.



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