When most children dream of falling, they awake frightened, relieved to be back in bed on solid ground.
Sydney Kennett, 10, dreams of falling when she's awake. And the thought couldn't make her happier.
Kennett, a fifth-grade student at Northeast Elementary in Parker, took first place in two events at an International Bodyflight Association competition in Houston on Sept. 10.
“It's like flying,” Kennett said. “You can do a bunch of different things.”
The competitions combine indoor sky diving and gymnastics in a vertical wind tunnel. Bodyflyers, suspended in the air by winds blasting between 112 and 150 miles per hour, fly, flip and fall almost to the floor before catching the updraft to return to the top of the tunnel, then somersault and spiral down again.
“I don't really feel dizzy or anything,” she said. “I just feel normal.”
Kennett performed an individual freestyle routine and a partnered routine with 14-year-old Bailey resident Kaitlyn Cummings in a vertical formation sky diving performance, which Kennett's mother Michelle described as being “like synchronized swimming” in the air.
Most of the 150 competitors at the two-day event had a four- or five-year age advantage over Kennett. Kennett said she was a little intimidated by the more seasoned competition at the outset, but it only made the result that much sweeter.
“I was really happy because I thought I was going to lose,” she said.
Kennett took her first turn in the tunnel at the iFly Denver indoor sky diving facility in Lone Tree when she was just 3 years old.
“I was really nervous, but it was fun,” she said. “It didn't hurt.”
Michelle said the 30-second experience made a lasting impression on her daughter.
“She tried gymnastics, swimming, soccer — this is the one sport that clicked with her,” Michelle said. “She couldn't wait to go back.”
Practice time in the tunnel at iFly is measured by the minute. Currently, Michelle estimates that her daughter has spent upward of 30 hours in the air.
Before her first-place finishes in Houston, Kennett competed in Chicago in May, taking third place in her first competition with the IBA.
Kennett's father, Andrew, enjoys traditional sky diving, the kind with airplanes and parachutes. His example may have been part of Kennett's inspiration to take to the air, but she plans to continue diving in a wind tunnel rather than the sky.
“I'm afraid of heights," she said.