Championship day at the Great Texas Balloon Race - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Championship day at the Great Texas Balloon Race

Championship day at the Great Texas Balloon Race was a go as pilots put on a scoring clinic that thrilled fans (Source: KLTV Staff) Championship day at the Great Texas Balloon Race was a go as pilots put on a scoring clinic that thrilled fans (Source: KLTV Staff)
EAST TEXAS (KLTV) -

On the final opportunity for pilots to score points, the Great Texas Balloon Race put on a good show for fans.

At the last minute, the go-ahead was given on championship day at the balloon race. With less than perfect flying conditions, and a delayed lift off, pilots put on a scoring clinic that thrilled fans.

Pilot Jason Buckner scored the only ring on the pole, but dozens of pilots peppered the target areas, piling up points.

"It was pretty amazing. I couldn't believe how close they were getting to the target, was just shocked that they could come in so quickly and go right back up," said visitor Amber McKlinney.

For contenders, every target was crucial, and they made each shot count.

"It was challenging. It was fun to fly from the ground level to four thousand feet more than three times," says race pilot Guy Gauthier.

"They came in so close together and the speed that they came in, and just the quantity of balloons flying today, it was great," says Todd McKlinney.

The post flight party had all pilots hoping their scores got them to the top.

"It was a great event because we did have those personal stories that you see in any competition. Pilot Kinnie Gibson battling cancer, Michael Glenn who's known as the rolling pilot the only paraplegic pilot in the United States," says race announcer Glen Moyer.

"We were going to decide a national champion on six events, and by flying today we stretched that out to ten. So now, the national champion can really claim that championship. It wasn't shortened," Gauthier says.

List of Winners:

U.S. national champion: Johnny Petrehn, of Kansas.

Women’s national champion: Christine Bertsch, of Iowa.

Texas state champion and senior division champion: Joe Heartsill, of Texas.

Great Texas balloon race champion : Bruce Bussey, of Longview.

Copyright 2014 KLTV. All rights reserved.

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