BIG FLATS, NY (WENY) -- Graduates from Horseheads and Elmira are hitting the ground running, or rather the sky. David McMaster and Jacob Barnes Jr. are heading to Poland to compete in the upcoming Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI) Junior World Gliding Championships.

"It started as just a hobby, as it always does for everyone. Then later on, that's what I [went] to college for. Now, I get to do it for [a] living. It's a hobby, a passion, and a profession," said McMaster.

Being a glider pilot runs in the family for McMaster. His grandfather and father raced locally and nationally. McMaster started helping out and learning about gliders when he was 13.

"I got to help them get the gliders together. I remember as a little kid wiping the bugs off the wings [afterward]," said McMaster.

Jacob Barnes, Jr. grew up learning to soar starting when he was 14. His dad was a corporate pilot and introduced it to him one day, and Barnes Jr. loved it. At 17 years old, his mentor brought him to the World Gliding Championships in Hungary and from there, he never looked back... or should we say down.

"Seeing the volume of pilots there, everyone having a great time [and] enjoying the same thing... This is what I want[ed] to do. So, I came back to Harris Hill and began cross country soaring and going further each time, faster and faster, until I competed in the regional," said Barnes Jr.

To qualify for the FAI Junior World Gliding Championships, you have to compete in regionals and rank. Once you make it to nationals, you need a certain percentage of the winner's score to make it to internationals.

"Each day, in theory, the winner gets 1,000 points. The fastest person around the course gets 1,000 points. Your score is a percentage of what the winner did, so if I flew 90% of how fast the winner flew, I’d get 900 points. Then, it’s a cumulative scoring, so the person or the pilot with the most points at the end of the week wins," said McMaster.

McMaster said he's excited to compete but this isn't his first time soaring in a Worlds Competition.

"This is my second time going to this meet. I was kind of on the in when it came to preparations and team selection. I’ve kind of known for a while but the official letter came in December and it was relief and excitement to be able to go again. My favorite part about last time and what I’m looking forward to most is the whole group is 18-26. I know that’s a given, given it’s a Junior Championship but it’s just so much fun to be around young pilots from all over the world with the same interests as you. [Plus], they are very, very talented," said McMaster.

The two local glider pilots will fly with two others, one from Sacramento, California, and the other from Tallahassee, Florida.

Barnes Jr. said he found out he made the team in December. He said he was jumping for joy, but afterward, the work began on getting licenses, weekly meetings, and working on little nuances.

He said the big preparation is getting the glider ready. He added, "I'm heading out July 3rd [and] I'll get to Poland about the 6th or 7th. We're renting gliders over there because it's pretty hard to ship this on a carry-on. So, getting over there is just going to be making sure the gliders are up to spec the way we want it, making sure the gliders are happy with me, I'm happy with the glider, and we're ready to go."

Barnes Jr. said being able to compete in international skies is unreal.

"Growing up [and] going to Elmira, it was just go to school every day and come home, you didn’t think much more of it than that. Now with soaring and everything, competing nationally was unreal. I never thought I’d be able to travel down to Georgia or Mifflin, Pennsylvania. Now that I’m heading to Poland, it was unreal to fulfill the dream that little 17-year-old me was looking at over in Hungary in 2019," said Barnes Jr.

The competition will run from July 13th through the 27th. Both Barnes Jr. and McMaster know they have a lot of work ahead of them, but they hope to come back home with a win.