When Basehor resident Zac Hevel’s singing group In The Stairwell from the United States Air Force Academy performed in the International Championship of Collegiate A Capella (ICCA) semifinals last year, they caught the attention of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.”

After the television show asked the group to try out for the show, the Air Force and Department of Defense agreed to support the participation of cadets as a unique opportunity to highlight the U.S. Air Force Academy.

“Educating and retaining the best and brightest airmen in the Air Force is a primary challenge to our overall national defense posture,” said Leslie Finstein, Air Force entertainment liaison officer. “‘America’s Got Talent’ provides a unique platform with wide reach that could inspire young men and women across the country to consider service in the U.S. Air Force.”

In The Stairwell was formed in 2004 by a group of Air Force Academy freshmen who sang together in the only place they could – the stairwell. The group’s name stuck and has become an official cadet club. It is the academy’s premier all-male a cappella group. The group performs at official Air Force functions as well in the community and is now made up of students from all class years.

The song that the group sung on “America’s Got Talent” is a song performed by One Direction, “Drag Me Down.”

Hevel is a 2013 Basehor-Linwood High School graduate and grew up playing sports. Getting nervous before big games is typical, but Hevel said the Air Force Academy trained him how to handle that stress while also making quick decisions and performing well under pressure.

“When I walked on the stage and saw the four judges what seemed to be 10 feet from me, I have never been more nervous in my life,” Hevel said. “As soon as we hit that first note it was game on and that performance was something that I will cherish for the rest of my life.”

Judges Heidi Klum, Simon Cowell, Mel B and Howie Mandell view acts of all kinds and can eliminate an act they do not feel is deserving of moving on in the competition. Hevel’s group was eliminated by Mandel, much to the astonishment of the other judges.

“It was pretty crazy. I definitely felt a small shock go through our group and we all shook it off really well. We all made sure that we paid attention to what Howie had to say because we love negative feedback, it gives us something to work on. We also knew that we had to work that much harder to win over Howie and prove him wrong,” said Hevel.

After the performance, Cowell spoke with Hevel and one of the other members of the group. Cowell gave plenty of encouraging words, telling them to keep working hard.

Beth Kornegay is a freelance writer covering news and events in the city of Basehor. If you have a story idea, email her at gabi_kansas@yahoo.com