Cheryl Stearns, 23, is undisputably the best woman parachutist in the world and, as of the last competition, better than all but three men. A U.S. Army sergeant, and the first female jumper to qualify for the service’s elite Golden Knights skydiving team, she has set three world records for women and accrued two international gold medals, two Pan American championships and five national titles. Last September Stearns, who works as a photo lab technician at Fort Bragg, N.C., broke her previous record with an amazing set of six free-fall maneuvers in 6.3 seconds at the world meet in Yugoslavia. She also floated to another record in Yuma, Ariz. by hitting the four-inch ground target dead center 43 consecutive times in the daytime and 23 at night. Stearns began skydiving six years ago for kicks in her native Scotts-dale, Ariz. “It took months to convince my mother to give me the $40 for the jump course,” she says, noting that “after my first free fall, I was hooked.” In 1977 she joined the Army in order to continue the expensive sport. “To become a world champion,” she explains, “I knew I needed the training full-time.” The 123-pound parachutist now holds a B.A. from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach and has a flight instructor’s rating. Stearns has had no accidents so far: In more than 2,600 jumps, her reserve chute has worked each of the 12 times she needed it.
Kevin Fagan, 22, became the nation’s youngest syndicated cartoonist last March when 100 newspapers began carrying Drabble, his comic strip featuring a shy, confused 20-year-old college student. “Drabble’s problem is that he tries too hard to hide his insecurity,” says Fagan. The character is a toned-down version of Murray, an arrogant, bearded and more radical protagonist that Fagan drew for the undergraduate newspaper at California State U at Sacramento. Though a career aptitude test showed that he should be either a philosopher or an orchestra leader, Kevin sent samples of Murray to Peanuts creator Charles Schulz, who suggested he approach the major syndicates. When United Feature called with a deal (now worth six figures annually and split 50-50 between distributor and artist), Fagan tried to play it supercool but, like Drabble, lost control. While riding down the freeway shortly thereafter, Kevin recalls glancing at the speedometer and discovering to his horror that he was going 80 miles an hour. The youngest of four brothers, he lives in El Toro, Calif. with his widowed mother and creates four hours a day in his upstairs bedroom. Fagan is taking history and French at nearby Saddleback College for fun, but his tuition should be deductible. “Whenever something happens on the campus,” he says, “I immediately try to think what I could do with it for my strip.”