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Embry-Riddle Teams Win First, Fourth in 2014 Air Race Classic
Pilot and captain Val Mehanja and co-pilot Nancy Snyder from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Daytona Beach, Fla., campus took first place in the collegiate division of this year’s women’s Air Race Classic, besting 11 other university teams. Mehanja and Snyder also finished second overall out of 50 teams in the 2,338-nautical-mile race that concluded Saturday in New Cumberland, Pa.

In addition, a team from Embry-Riddle’s Prescott, Ariz., campus composed of pilot Kristin Garcia and co-pilot Marlene Wessel finished fourth in the collegiate division and 10th overall.

ARC Prescott GirlsThis year’s Air Race Classic began at Buchanan Field Airport in Concord, Calif., on June 16. The competitors had to navigate to and land at airports in 10 cities along their route, including Klamath Falls, Ore.; Elko, Nev.; Pinedale, Wyo.; Scottsbluff, Neb.; Norfolk, Neb.; Iowa City, Iowa; Danville, Ill.; Athens, Ohio; and York, Pa. They completed the race at Capital City Airport in New Cumberland, Pa., on June 21.

The Air Race Classic is the oldest, annual, all-female cross-country air race in the United States. It has its roots in the first Women’s Air Derby of 1929, which was started by a group of female pilots who were turned away from races traditionally featuring male pilots. The first event was referred to as the Powder Puff Derby and was featured in the movie “Amelia” about Amelia Earhart, who flew in the first race.

Embry-Riddle racers have delivered impressive performances in the Air Race Classic over the years. The Daytona Beach team has participated every year since 2007, finishing three previous times as the No. 1 team in the collegiate division. They have finished twice as the No. 2 team in the overall competition. Prescott has taken part every year since 2009, ranking as high as No. 2 in the collegiate division and No. 6 overall.

Garcia and Wessel from Prescott, and Mehanja and Snyder from Daytona Beach were selected for the competition by Embry-Riddle College of Aviation administrators on the basis of their piloting skills, their competitive spirit and their knowledge of aviation, safety, navigation, meteorology and crew resource management. In the competition, both teams were piloting Cessna 172 aircraft from the university’s fleet.

Marlene Wessel is from Brensbach, Germany. She graduated with a B.S. in Aeronautical Science with an Air Traffic Control minor. Kristin Garcia is from White River Junction, Vt. She graduated in May with a degree in Aeronautical Science, with minors in Air Traffic Control and Aviation Business. Both Kristin and Marlene are flight instructors at the Prescott Campus.

Val Mehanja is from the Republic of Kosovo, and graduated in May with a degree in Aeronautical Science from the Daytona Beach Campus, where she is a flight instructor. Nancy Snyder, from Wellington, Fla., is majoring in Aeronautical Science and will graduate in the fall. She hopes to become an Embry-Riddle flight instructor this summer.

Other schools fielding teams in the Air Race Classic were Indiana State University, Jacksonville University, Liberty University, Louisiana Tech University, McGill University, Purdue University, Texas State Technical College, University of North Dakota and Western Michigan University.

In the News

The Prescott pilot team was also featured on two local TV news outlets.

To watch the feature on,

To watch a feature on CBS 5 Arizona, go to

And incoming Daytona Beach Campus freshman Cara Baldwin flew with her mother and grandmother in the 2014 Air Race Classic, marking her grandmother’s 10th consecutive year participating in the event. For the full story, go to

About the Air Race Classic

Originally known as the Powder Puff Derby when it was established in 1929, the annual cross-country race is sponsored by Air Race Classic Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing public awareness of general aviation, presenting and promoting the tradition of pioneering women in aviation, demonstrating women’s roles in aviation and encouraging and educating current and future women pilots.

For more information, go to

MEDIA CONTACT DAYTONA BEACH: James Roddey, Communications and Media Relations Manager, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach, Fla.; (386) 226-6198;

MEDIA CONTACT PRESCOTT: Jason Kadah, Communications and Media Relations Manager, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Prescott, Ariz.; (928) 777-6731. [ home ]

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