By Matt Neumann
Thursday morning greeted contestants with light wind and nice temperatures—a far departure from the day before. I got there even earlier to still find out that I would be in the middle of the pack instead of the tail end coming to the field. This most likely was due to everyone not wanting to practice in the high wind that stuck around until the wee hours of the morning.
Thursday, July 21, is the second day of qualifying. The best of Thursday’s two flights is added to the best of Wednesday’s two flights to determine the top 5 in each of the 4 groups in Open and the top 3 in each of the 3 groups in Advanced class.
The weather held during the time at the field so if you messed up on the first flight, you had a good chance to make it up on the second. This happened in several cases where the second flight was much improved over the first, allowing a contestant to leapfrog over someone else to make the cut to the next day. So, there is a lesson to be learned here, “Never give up, never surrender!”
In other cases, however, if a contestant was so far ahead of everyone else, it was quite possible that he or she would then decide to just pass the second round. This was also the case in several instances. Some just want to speed things along, so the judges are not in the heat so long, while others have a strategy that they do not want to show the judges their mistakes any more than they have to. It is because we will see the same judges again on Friday.
Some contestants feel that the more a judge sees the same mistake from you, they will then expect to see it even if it is not there or as bad. This could result in a lower score than what you may or may not deserve, or so the contestant may think. So, there is a little strategy being played now and again.
These passes caused some heads up for the contestants who decided to fly their second flight because the flight order would keep changing. Instead of them being 3rd in line, they may find themselves being second in line. This makes them have to get ready to go a little quicker. It’s not a big deal if you know about it. But if you don’t, you may wind up rushing things a bit.
We did manage to get done at a reasonable time of around 12:30 p.m. or so. At that time, the last of the scores were tabulated while the contestants that were on the bubble, places 5 in Open or 3 in Advanced, or could pop the bubble, usually places 6 and 4, paced back and forth. Having been on the bubble in the past, I know how this feels to have to wait for the final scores to post. And that waiting can be quite nerve-wracking.
Once the final scores were tabulated and the outcome on who made it and who did not was determined, it was time to find out the flight order for Friday’s semifinals for Open and the flight order to determine the Advanced National champion for Friday. This is done with a random draw determined by a computer program. The program takes the name of the contestant and assigns a random flight order for the contestants. The contestants will then know the flight order for Friday before they leave the field for the next day.
Also, as with the previous two years, the contestants that made the cut got a T-shirt that says, “made the cut.” I have to say, I like this addition of the past few years. I have kept mine from the past couple as a memento and plan to do so with this one.
We did have one special visitor today. A hawk came by and sat on a pole between circles 3 and 4. He/she kept a “hawk eye” on the proceedings to make sure things went well. It’s something you don’t see every day. Big birdy by the way.
So, we are now off for practice for those who made the cut for Friday, which is probably the most stressful of all the days this week. On Friday, we fly two flights and add both together to determine the top 5 in Open, who will then go and fly on Saturday and the 2022 National Champion in Advanced.
On Friday, there are no throwaways. If you goof or have a problem, your contest just ended, and you become a spectator. Any other day you can goof once or have an issue and fix it and recover. Not on Friday. There will be 29 contestants who will be getting little sleep Thursday night.
Friday should be an interesting day. I can't wait but I know it will be a long night since I probably won't get much sleep since I am one of the 20 in Open. This is going to be exciting to watch and participate in for sure!
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