Free falling

While Suzanne Caulfield has a deep-seated fear of heights, one of her greatest stress relievers flies her 14,000 feet – or nearly 2.5 miles – off the ground and sends her falling back down at speeds up to 160 mph.

Caulfield, a Mount Mary University math instructor who previously spent 13 years as a mechanical engineer at Wauwatosa-based Briggs & Stratton Corp., is a skydiver who has jumped 230 times over the course of five seasons.

She made her first descent in 2007 at Sturtevant-based Skydive Midwest in preparation to tackle heights on a climb of the Sydney Harbor Bridge later that year.

Following Caulfield’s return from Australia, and her successful climb, she viewed the video of her skydiving adventure.

“All I could see in my video was how much fun my instructor was having, and I thought, ‘I want that,'” Caulfield said.

More than 30 jumps later, Caulfield completed accelerated free fall training through Skydive Midwest and now averages about 50 jumps per season.

While skydiving has not extinguished Caulfield’s fear of heights, it has opened up a new outlet to extinguish some of her stress, forcing her to narrow her focus with each jump.

The extreme sport has also reshaped her outlook on life.

“You truly appreciate what’s important when you’ve danced with death and won,” she said.

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