Hundreds of BMX racers converged on the Deschutes County Fair&Expo Center this past weekend for the USA BMX Great Northwest Nationals.
They traveled from locations across western North America, including Oregon, Washington, California, British Columbia, Idaho, Nevada and Arizona. They raced and raced and raced on the dirt track that occupied the arena floor of the Hooker Creek Event Center throughout the three-day event, which concluded Sunday.
Plenty of them tumbled to the dirt on the three banked turns and numerous rollers, while some rode well enough to wheel away with tall purple trophies in hand. Dozens of riders finished first in their classes, including several Central Oregonians: Redmond's Taylor Stephens (USAC junior development boys class, Friday, and 15 expert class, Saturday), and Bend residents Sunny Harmeson (41-45 girls cruiser, Friday), Christian Klampe (9 novice, Friday and Sunday), Timmy Richards (10 novice, Saturday) and Gene Nelson (41 and over inter, Saturday).
And, in at least two cases, they celebrated birthdays.
Maya Jones, 6, and Ken Botterill, 70, are pretty much on opposite ends of the age spectrum, especially when it comes to BMX (bicycle motocross) racing. Maya was not the youngest rider at the Great Northwest Nationals, but she was among their ranks. Botterill may well have been the oldest competitor.
But for both of them this weekend, age was just a number.
“The more you do it, the better you get,” said Botterill of BMX racing.
Botterill, a retired tugboat captain from Chilliwack, British Columbia, followed in his son Dean's pedal strokes into BMX in 2008 after retiring the year before. He got started, he explained Saturday, “just to be more fit. I was looking at maybe getting diabetes if I didn't start doing more exercise, so that's why I did it.”
He celebrated his birthday on Friday and noted that he is currently in excellent health.
Young Maya also followed a relative into the sport. In her case, it was her older brother, Wyatt, 14, who also competed in Central Oregon over the weekend.
She picked up BMX just last fall and had a bit of a rough introduction to the 6-year-old novice class on Saturday — her birthday — when she fell to the track in her first moto, or heat, of the day after another rider knocked one of her tires. The day before, in Friday's pre-race competition, Maya competed against 5-year-olds, but the birthday bumped her up an age division midcompetition.
“I crashed, and my elbow was starting to bleed,” said Maya, a kindergartner who lives in Springfield, of her Saturday spill.
But she proved she was a tough birthday girl by getting back on her bike and finishing her race. And the incident did little to dampen her birthday celebration, which included a birthday cake and candy at the arena.
“It was fun because it was very special to me, and I wish it could happen pretty much every day,” Maya says of competing on her birthday.
Botterill was a bit less enthusiastic about his milestone.
“It's not that big a thing for me, I don't think,” he noted of his 70th birthday.
Botterill did mark the occasion by winning the men's 61 and over cruiser class in Friday's pre-race competition. He placed first in one of his three motos and second in the other two to win on accumulated points, which is how classes with only a few riders were decided. In classes with larger field sizes, riders progressed through rounds and up to eight qualified for the “main event,” in which final placements were decided at the end of each day.
Also at stake were district points and, for riders who advanced to the main event in their class, points that contribute to their national ranking.
Points probably were not much on Maya's mind over the weekend. She was too busy eating birthday cake and standing up at the starting gate all on her own — rather than having her dad assist by holding her bike steady — for the very first time. Something that is pretty clear, though, is that she has already given this BMX thing quite a bit of thought.
“You should stand up and try your very best, and you should try to get first place and get a trophy,” Maya offered. “Most importantly, you should stand up in the gate and pedal down so you can make a big turn, so you can get all the way over there so you can pass everybody.
“And if you're in last, you can pass everybody, go around them, and you can make the finish line.”
Out of the mouths of babes, words to race by.