Amanda Suter: ‘When some people get stressed, need a break, they go to the beach, go on a run, etc. I just prefer to jump out of planes.’
An extraordinary thing happened just before Jacksonville University’s football game Saturday, Oct. 26: the homecoming queen parachuted from an airplane onto the football field.
It was quite a day for senior Amanda Suter, an aviation management and flight operations major who figures her special feat might be a first.
At halftime of JU’s homecoming win over Davidson, Suter and senior engineering physics major VonHayes Switzer were crowned as JU’s homecoming queen and king, “Miss Dolphina” and “Big Man on Campus.” Top JU scholars and campus leaders competed for the titles; the selection process included panel interviews, a fun pageant and a student vote.
With about 200 skydives, a motorcycle racing career and a participation in a three-day, 2,100 cross-country airplane race to her credit, Suter is a self-described tomboy who “dares to be a little different,” as she puts it.
Thus, a JU homecoming spectacle for the ages was born; the 23-year-old jumped from 6,500 feet, landing near midfield, in step with the JU Marching Band.
“The idea of jumping over homecoming weekend has honestly been in the back of my mind for quite a while,” Suter said. “My friends and I joked about me skydiving into my own graduation-commissioning with my cap and gown on, but obviously, it wouldn’t be too achievable. So the next thing I thought of was, ‘Why don’t I jump onto that big football field?’”
That, she did – and there may be an encore.
“I thought of also jumping into the Dolphin Green (on the JU campus). Hint, hint. If any more big events need a skydiver to jump in,” she said.
Suter’s skydiving passion is independent of her Navy career plans – except that both involve being in the air. After completing her service as a Naval aviator, Suter plans to work as a pilot helping with humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts. On the side, she intends to teach people to skydive as a coach.
“The overall plan is stay in the sky one way or another because that is where I am truly happy.
(Here is Amanda Suter’s homecoming jump!)
Here’s a Q&A with Suter, a native of Winlock, Wash.:
Wave Weekly: Skydiving, huh? How much experience do you have?
Amanda Suter: “I did my first tandem — attached to someone — when I was 16 years old in and finished the Accelerated Freefall course when I was 17 years old. Now I have just over 200 skydives, six base jumps, and am a skydiving coach as well as a “jump pilot,” a pilot that throws skydivers out of their plane.”
WW: Jumping from a plane must be pretty doggone scary. What’s it like? AS: “Honestly, because I have done it so many times, I would describe it as having the same nervousness I felt when I was playing sports in front of large crowds in high school. I played varsity soccer, basketball, and fast-pitch softball. I no longer get nervous for the actual act of jumping from a plane; rather, if I am nervous, it’s because I don’t want to mess up the plan for the skydive — more fear of embarrassment than injury. As for how awesome skydiving is, skydiving allows me to stop worrying or thinking about the stress of, say, school, work, everyday life, for that short period of time and solely focus on what the task is at hand — working on certain skydiving skills and being safe at all times). Skydiving, I can truthfully say, is my outlet and will continue to be for quite a while. When some people get stressed, need a break, they go to the beach, go on a run, etc. I just prefer to jump out of planes.”
WW: Ever been a queen?
AS: “Hmmm, for those who grew up with me, they have actually found this whole ordeal a mixture of how awesome it was and how funny it was for me to decide to run for something like this. I have always been highly involved with school — sports, officers of clubs and organizations, honors societies, ROTC, etc.; however I have never been the typical candidate who would run for something like this. I feel that it’s not usual for such a ‘tomboy’ to run and win something like this. I spent all of high school and up to this point in college working on cars, riding motorcycles, learning to fly, etc., instead of doing my hair and makeup, shopping, I don’t know, whatever else ‘girly-girls’ do … I’m just glad JU wanted to pick someone for their Miss Dolphina that did not fit the norm and dares to be a little different.”
WW: Regarding your daily double: Homecoming queen AND skydiving onto the football field … Do you think it’s ever been done?
AS: “I actually highly doubt that this has ever been done because, for one, not many skydivers are women and then out of those women, they would have to be in a college as well as be interested in running for homecoming queen … But who knows?”