Area skydivers are officially putting their names in the record books.

Jumpers from Skydive Fargo, the only skydiving drop zone in the Dakotas, set a string of five state records July 9 through July 11.

The records included Minnesota's largest formation, a ring of 12 people gripping hands from 14,500 feet above the Detroit Lakes (Minn.) Fly-In on July 10.

"To get 12 skilled-enough skydivers to be able to do that is pretty good," said Becky Baird of West Fargo, who has been jumping for about 10 years.

Baird was involved in an unofficial North Dakota record 17-person formation in 2008, but "to get some of our newer jumpers involved was kind of a neat experience," she said.

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Baird and her husband, Wade, both took part in the record setting, together forming North Dakota's largest head-down formation on June 9.

In the 14,500-foot 12-person formation, Becky Baird also set the record for Minnesota's highest female jump, while Wade Baird, Tim Estenson and Brad Heim set a North Dakota record for highest altitude July 11 at 16,500 feet.

The achievements are now considered "official" because the United States Parachute Association began keeping track of records three years ago, but Wade Baird said some of the records have likely been set before without being made official.

Skydiving as a sport is slow to grow in North Dakota, with jumping limited to the summer months. Still, Skydive Fargo now has three female jumpers, which Becky Baird said may be a testament to the sport's growth.

"It's kind of an addiction," she said.

Becky Baird also set a Nebraska record last weekend for the largest female head-down dive with three other jumpers. She will head to Chicago next week for field camp in hopes of being part of a world-record attempt at the women's head-down formation, with 22 jumpers.

The Bairds say they plan to continue setting records, along with the rest of the Skydive Fargo crew.

"A large part of skydiving is pushing the boundary and pushing yourself to improve," Wade Baird said.

"Skydiving is a pretty humbling sport. Right when you think you get good enough, you go ahead and try something, and you realize you're not as good ... I guess that's why the record setting is fun," he said.

Record-setting spree

    Area jumpers set five official records from July 9 to July 11. The records include:

  • Largest formation, head-down (2), North Dakota - Becky Baird and Wade Baird, July 9
  • Largest formation (12) and highest altitude (14,500 feet), Minnesota - Becky Baird, Wade Baird, Tim Estenson, Jim Krogh and Ardell Tweed of West Fargo; Gregory Bodensteiner, Justin Morrell, Terry Peoples and Dave Sornsin of Fargo; Chris Gourde of Harwood; Craig Odenbach of Bismarck; Gerald Fischer of Dilworth and Ron Olson of Hallock, Minn., July 10
  • Highest altitude, female (14,500 feet), Minnesota - Becky Baird, July 10
  • Highest altitude (16,500 feet), North Dakota - Wade Baird, Estenson and Brad Heim of Bismarck, July 11

Readers can reach Forum reporter Emily Hartley at (701) 235-7311