Sports

BMX racers rock the competition

Chords of the national anthem blasted from an electric guitar, played by a teenage boy standing on a mound of dirt in the rain.

Pfff! The starting gate drops and BMX riders take to the track with American flags in hand.

This was the scene at the July 21 American Bicycle Association's state qualifying championship races at North Sea-Tac BMX Park where two Federal Way residents competed.

Lain Van Ogle, 12, and Kelsey Van Ogle, 9, both finished first in their respective racing classes and will proceed to the ABA State Championships later this year. This weekend the siblings are competing for world champion titles at the 2007 Union Cycliste Internationale BMX World Championships in Victoria, B.C. Kelsey was chosen to carry the flag at the opening ceremony.

Lain and Kelsey have traveled the United States and have ventured as far as Brazil and Canada to compete in their sport. Keeping on top of their game is not easy. It requires hard work and dedication.

Both Lain and Kelsey began BMX (bicycle motocross) racing when they were young. The Van Ogle family has always been active and busy themselves with outdoor activities such as fishing, hunting and golfing, said Leslie Van Ogle, the children's mother.

"We're always doing something on the go," she said.

Lain began showing an interest in BMX when he was 6, after an older neighbor introduced him to the sport. By age 7, he was hooked on it. He went to nationals in Reno, Nev., but did not finish as the Van Ogles had wished he would.

"He did OK, but it was not the stellar performance we had hoped for," Van Ogle said.

Nevertheless, Lain spent the next few years traveling from track to track, practicing and perfecting his riding technique. In the meantime, his younger sister Kelsey, age 5 at the time, was spending a significant amount of her week accompanying the family to BMX tracks. She too decided she wanted to race.

Leslie, and her husband, Lorin, told Kelsey she could compete as soon as she could ride her bike without training wheels. A few days later the training wheels were off and Kelsey was on the track, Van Ogle said.

"As long as you can ride your bike without training wheels, you can come out and race," Van Ogle said.

Now, because there are vastly fewer girls than boys competing in BMX, Kelsey competes against both genders.

Top competitors

The Van Ogle children have made staying in shape, training and conditioning for their sport an essential part of their lives. They each train two to three hours a day, Van Ogle said. Most weekends are spent racing at either the River Valley BMX track in Sumner, or the North SeaTac BMX Park in Sea-Tac.

When they are at home, they do push-ups, sit-ups and sprints on their bicycles, she said. In the winter they ride stationary bicycles. Lain also snowboards and Kelsey plays soccer. The conditioning is not always fun, but the results can be seen in their performances.

The Van Ogles are modest. When asked Saturday at the state qualifying races how Lain and Kelsey can be recognized on the track, several adults surrounding the siblings answer by saying they will be the ones leading the group. The kids just smile slightly and blow off the comments, though. Many of their classmates do not know they are both 2006 U.C.I. BMX world champions, Van Ogle said.

Lain and Kelsey have numerous trophies. They have so many first place trophies they opt to take a "buyback" route, which allows them to collect $2 instead of a trophy, Van Ogle said. The children's favorite part of racing is competing and winning, she said.

"Kelsey will do whatever she can to win," Van Ogle said.

Each award is a reminder of the places Lain and Kelsey have gone and people they have met through their sport. Canada, Brazil, California, Utah, Texas, Oklahoma, Illinois, Oregon, Arizona, Nevada and Pennsylvania — they have been there and done that.

When it comes to traveling, the siblings dismantle their bicycles, pack the pieces into a suitcase and fly to their destination.

On the plane ride back from Brazil, Lain and Kelsey were faced with a decision. The plane was too heavy and cargo needed to be temporarily left behind, Van Ogle said. The suitcases with the children's bicycles flew home with the Van Ogles. The children's clothes and amenities arrived at a later date.

The opportunity to travel has taught the children about other traditions and cultures. Lain keeps in touch with two boys, one Japanese and one Venezuelan, that he met at the 2006 U.C.I World Championships in Brazil. Some of the cultures Lain and Kelsey have encountered have been familiar and comfortable, such as the ones in Canada. Others have been foreign and unsettling, such as the ones in Brazil. Each has opened their eyes to the world and taught them how to communicate with people of varying races and ages, Van Ogle said.

BMX riding is a universal sport. However, it is still often unrecognized and misunderstood, Van Ogle said.

"A lot of people don't know (BMX) exists," she said.

Even if a person realizes what BMX is, the sport is not always viewed in the best light, she said.

Music, with Kid Rock's "Cowboy" and Aerosmith's "Walk This Way" among the playlist, belted from loudspeakers as the racers practiced to compete at Saturday's event. Children chased each other with Popsicle-stained mouths.

"We're going fast because it's raining," the announcer yelled.

Screams of "pedal, pedal" could be heard as well as children's laughter.

The scene appears chaotic, but everyone looks out for one another, Van Ogle said. Racers and their loved ones are like one large family, she said. When somebody needs a place to stay or equipment, there is no shortage of helping hands, she said.

Children and adults alike participate. The races are not day cares where parents drop off their children and leave, Van Ogle said.

"There is a lot of support and parent involvement (in BMX)," Van Ogle said.

Contact Jacinda Howard: jhoward@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

BMX facts

• Riders of all ages can compete in BMX. Riders ranged from ages 3 to 58 at Saturday's event.

• Racers compete against other racers of similar age and skill levels.

• Racing is scored on a point system.

• Three riders are necessary to form a legal, non-national class; four are required for a national class.

• BMX racing is conducted in motos, where top winners will be transfered onto the next round.

• The American Bicycle Association's BMX racing season begins Jan. 1 and ends Dec. 15.

• To compete in BMX, one must register with the ABA, which costs about $45.

• Each ABA race costs about $10 to participate in, unless it is a national event, which costs more.

• Females racers will compete against both genders until they have won enough races to move up to a girls class.

• On June 29, 2003, the International Olympic Committee decided to introduce BMX in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijng. Scouts will be watching BMX racers this weekend in Canada, Van Ogle said.

• To learn more about BMX, visit the American Bicycle Association's Web site at www.ababmx.org.

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