Today the BFA released the list of accepted pilot's to the 2010 National Championships. A full field of 50 pilots has been accepted with a waiting list of 15 pilots. The familiar names appear in the list of 50, but there are some new names we have not seen at recent nationals including Phil Clinger, Rhett Heartsill, and Woody Watson.
Perhaps the most news worthy are the names that appear on the waiting list. Al Nels is a two time world champion and is currently last on the waiting list. Owen Keown, currently second on the waiting list, finished second in his last nationals in 2008 and will be representing the USA in Hungary this year at the World Championships. Perennial nationals competitors Ken Draughn, Henry Rosenbaum, Jim Thompson, Roy Smith, and Tom Roush (9th in '09) are all currently on the waiting list. The high caliber of pilots on the waiting list simply reaffirms the influx of new talent and overall progress being made on the national competitive scene. It is finally difficult to qualify for a nationals again.
Looking back on last year's notable finishes Michigan pilots Steve King, who had an impressive fourth place finish, and Jeff Pestun who grabbed Rookie of the Year honors in 2009 will benefit from home field advantage again this year as the championship returns to their home state. Jeff Sweet flew to a solid 8th place finish last year and backed up with solid performances in Bowling Green, KY and Statesville, NC later in the season. But the new pilot BalloonPong is most excited about this year is Rhett Heartsill. Rhett put together a great week in Indianola last year to help him qualify for his first national championship. His flying skills and the support from the strong Texas contingent that is ever present at the nationals could lead him to a very strong finish - and he's our ealy pick to take home Rookie of the Year honors.