Woodlands Academy student medals in World Cup of Indoor Skydiving

Barrington girl part of team that took part in event in Belgium

LAKE FOREST – Fifteen-year-old Gianna Keuer of Barrington recently made some “girl power” history.

Her team, Volare, was the first all-female 4-Way Dynamic team selected to compete at a World Cup of Indoor Skydiving event. Volare finished second in the event’s junior division to a team from Singapore at the 4th FAI World Cup of Indoor Skydiving event April 5-10 in Charleroi, Belgium.

In addition to earning the silver medal, Keuer’s team appears to have set a North American 4-Way Dynamic junior record, which is pending ratification by the World Air Sports Federation (FAI).

Volare took second at the USA Nationals in November in El Paso, Texas, to qualify for the World Cup event. Because the USA Nationals do not yet have a junior division, Keuer and her teammates – Kiana Adamson, 15, of Colorado; Bella Capra, 13, of Oregon; and Jill Knutson, 16, of New York – competed at the adult level, beating adult male teams in the process.

Keuer is a sophomore at Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart, an all-girls college-prep day-and-boarding high school in Lake Forest.

“We are so proud of Gianna,” said Dawn Nichols, who is the head of Woodlands Academy. “She exemplifies our commitment to providing our students a personalized experience where each girl can cultivate her own unique gifts and talents while gaining a world-class education.”

Volare is coached by Mike Wittenburg, a world-renowned professional skydiver from Naperville.

“It’s been really great to see these girls progress and grow, not just as fliers, but also as strong, beautiful young women over the last two years,” he said.

Wittenburg also was in Belgium as a proud parent. His two children, Kaleigh and Noah, won gold in the 2-Way Dynamic World Cup event. Both have assisted Wittenburg in coaching Volare.

As for her experience in Belgium, Keuer described it as a dream come true to represent the U.S. on the world stage of indoor skydiving.

“I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many amazing athletes from around the world,” she said. “It is so exciting to be the world’s first all-female 4-Way Dynamic team selected to compete for an FAI World Cup, and I feel very fortunate to be able to experience this with three of my closest friends on team Volare.”

As for the future, Keuer said the team “absolutely plans to continue” training and competing.

“However, our biggest challenge is the cost of our training,” she said. “Most of our competitors from around the world are sponsored by their countries or by private companies and have their training expenses reduced or covered. We hope to find some wonderful sponsors who are excited to support team Volare in our efforts to continue inspiring girls in sports.”

In addition to weekly training at iFly in Naperville, Keuer participates in more intense sessions with her teammates at Michigan, Texas, Virginia and Florida facilities. She said the costs for travel and air tunnel training time can add up for a team whose members live in different states.

Keuer discovered indoor skydiving at age 10 during a school field trip to iFly Naperville. While there, she witnessed the physics of wind movement, which is indoor skydiving’s driving force. Participants wear a tight flight suit and helmet as they maneuver through winds that can approach 160 mph inside a vertical tunnel 14 feet wide. They spin, flip end over end and soar into the air before plummeting face-first toward the floor, trying to avoid contact with the wind tunnel’s glass wall.

Competing in the 4-Way Dynamic event, Keuer and her three teammates zip through a series of three-dimensional patterns in a tight formation. Winners can be separated by fractions of a second in the event where veering outside a pattern or touching the wall results in a 5-second penalty.