Rodriguez was born 26 years ago to Columbian parents in Passaic, NJ. Moving around with her family, she spent her childhood in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Florida. When Rodriguez joined the Army at 17, she knew she wanted to skydive and told the recruiters she wanted to be airborne. It was not until her third year, when she was stationed at Ft. Bragg, that the army wanted to send her to airborne school. Since Rodriguez had less than one year left in the military and would not be able to finish the school, she declined. Still in Ft. Bragg, she kept trying to plan a trip to a drop zone to make her first jump with some of her friends. However, it never seemed to work out. Finally, on Oct. 1, 1995 she went by herself and did her first tandem at Raeford. Immediately, she was hooked on skydiving.
While at the wind tunnel, Rodriguez met her first teammates with the team Illusions. In December 1998 and with about 200 jumps, she joined the team (Rachel Vivier, Cathy Hodge, Cecilia Ferrer). Kurt Gaebel was the coach. While the team was mainly out for fun, they did compete in several Florida Skydiving League competitions. Coach Gaebel was already very impressed with her outstanding skills and positive nature by then. However, Rodriguez only got about 50 training jumps with the Illusions when she had to quit. Her mother was sick and Rodriguez wanted to be with her. Rodriguez stopped jumping until September when she went back to her job at SkyVenture. Once again, Rodriguez got involved with a team. Several acquaintances from the wind tunnel were putting together a season team and asked Rodriguez to join. Kinetics made its debut at the first Florida Skydiving League competition in January 2000. Within the first month though, personnel changes became necessary. As a result, two of the jumpers were replaced with Rodriguez’s tunnel rat co-workers.
The new team of Rodriguez, Glenn Mendez, Kyle Starck and Thomas Hughes, changed the team’s name to Rage and continued to compete in the Florida Skydiving League. Because money was tight, the team only did about 100 jumps during the year. They did, however, get a lot of tunnel training. Rodriguez said everyone on the team flew well and had good individual skills, but putting it all together became the biggest challenge. The random work in particular took communication and eye contact that was difficult for the team members to master. With each of the members going at their own pace, Rage racked up a lot of busts on the Florida Skydiving League scoreboard. Coaches told the members that they needed to slow down and the points would come – and they did.
A few weeks after the returning from the nationals, Lilac Hayes asked Rodriguez to jump with a woman’s team forming at Zephyrhills. Lilac told her that the team was planning on going to the World Cup in Eloy to represent the United States. No other women’s team had qualified. At the last female 4-way event in Australia 1999, the winning team had an 11 plus-point average and Hayes felt like they could do better. With about 30 jumps together, Synchronicity with Lilac Hayes, Sally Stewart, Sally Hathaway and Rodriguez, went to the World Cup at Skydive Arizona in November 2000. The team averaged 11.8, enough for a gold medal in the women’s class.
And there is not doubt about it - Rodriguez is hooked on competitive skydiving. She said it was the World Championship competition that has really captivated her and brought out her competitive spirit. Rodriguez said she would like to stay with Synchronicity if the team continues. Hayes will be leaving and they will have to find another woman to replace her if the team is to go on. Rodriguez said it doesn’t matter if she is on a women’s or men’s team, she wants to continue competing. “I’d like to get to the level of Dawn (English) or Lise (Aune) whether competing with women or men,??? Rodriguez said. “Right now, the team is good to be at the level we’re at – we’re growing. I’ve found three others and they just happened to be women."
NSL News Update in December 2001:
Rodriguez as a member of Synchronicity, the U.S. women's team that won the gold medal in Spain, is now ready to make the next step and show the world one more time that women athletes do not need their own class to compete on the highest competitve level and possibly become a world champion. The current overall world champion, Arizona Airspeed, chose Rodriguez to become their first female team member in Airspeed history.
Airspeed Zulu had personnel changes. Alan Metni and Christopher Irwin left the team. This opened up the opportunity for qualified competitors to go to Arizona and try out for these open slots. Actually, it was only one slot. Gary Beyer decided to join the team again after he had retired from Airspeed Purple in 1999. Beyer was still a team member of the Airspeed 8-way team that won the World Championship in 1999 and lost the title in 2001 to Russia.
Rodriguez was one of many candidates for the open slot. Many people in the competition world still questioned whether Airspeed would pick a female competitor for the team. However, Rodriguez came to Arizona with a huge amount of talent and also a lot of experience that she had collected in the last years at many competitions. The NSL Profiles featured Rodriguez' career in the second last edition. Her move did not really surprise the NSL News after listening to her story.
With her dreams becoming true now, reality is up next. There are a lot of things to be taken care of. Life in Eloy, Arizona, is different than in Florida. The work situation for Rodriguez will change dramatically since she will have to leave her secure position as an instructor at the SkyVenture wind tunnel in Orlando. And her family is located in Florida, as well. However, she has been ready for the move for a while and she will take on the challenge with all the energy she has.
"I started competing for fun," Rodriguez said in the interview for the NSL Profiles. “I never thought I’d end up at this level.??? She wanted to get to the level of the other top female competitors: "I’d like to get to the level of Dawn (English) or Lise (Aune) whether competing with women or men.??? Now she has already arrived on this next level. And the NSL commented at that time "...this is not the end..." There is still work to be done.
No female competitor has won Excalibur yet.....
NSL News Update in March 2005:
However, her 8-way team was qualified as the national team for the Mondial 2003 in Gap, France. Rodriguez resumed training with Airspeed 8 as soon as her ankle was well enough. The 4-way event had lower priority by then. Airspeed 8 ended up in second place after a most exciting race with the Russian 8-way team in September 2003. The whole Airspeed squad traveled from France to Florida and won the USPA 8-way Championship in Lake Wales. Airspeed Dragon with Eliana Rodriguez took the fourth place in 4-way.
Back home in October 2004, Airspeed once again won the USPA Championship in 8-way. Rodriguez and her line-up of Airspeed Blue placed 5th in the 4-way event.
Airspeed changed plans for the 2005 season. The NSL News story of January 7, 2005, provided information of the new directions the 8-way world champions would follow this year. The Airspeed 2005 plans included top competition in both the 4-way and the 8-way event.
Airspeed has to defend the 8-way gold medals at the world meet 2006 in Germany. There is not much doubt that Airspeed 8 will once again qualify as the U.S. national team at the USPA Championship 2005 in September in Perris and move on toward the 2006 goal.
The U.S. competition in 4-way is much tougher and tighter than ever before. However, Airspeed wants to be a part of this competition, as well, and has formed two very strong line-ups. Eliana Rodriguez is a member of Airspeed Odyssey, together with Andy Delk, Brian Johnson and Airspeed veteran Craig Girard. This line-up was the stronger one at the first competition this year, the SSL Valentine's Meet 2005, which was held in February in Eloy, and promises to keep up with the Airspeed goal of contending in both events. Round five of the Valentine's Meet is currenetly featured on NSL-TV.
This is the current situation of Arizona Airspeed and the update for Eliana Rodriguez and her NSL Profile. She will visit the Sky Knights Sport Parachute Club in July as the reigning 8-way world champion, and also as a new and well trained top contender in 4-way. Even more excitingly, Rodriguez will just have returned from competing with the world's best 4-way and 8-way teams at the Malevsky World Cup in Russia, which will be completed two weeks before her trip to Wisconsin. She will have great information available for the participants of the MWSL weekend event in East Troy.