Recap: 2015 USA BMX Gator Nationals

October 20, 2015 by  

Recap: 2015 USA BMX Gator Nationals

The 2015 USA BMX Gator Nationals was pushed down the schedule in 2015 in order to accommodate the construction schedule on the new multimillion dollar, dual-hill rebuild at Oldsmar BMX. Set back-to-back with the Fall Nationals in the Orlando area, we have been seeing lots of social media posts from BMXers lounging by the pool, kickin sand at the beaches, doing Disney World, Key West and other Florida fun spots, as they while-away the week between the races.

And WOW, what a job John Sawyer and his crew did on the new facility! If you’re a regular BMX News reader, you have seen some of our posts, including the initial podcast with John, announcing plans for the facility on June 6, 2014. If you click on the link (will open in a new window) you will see the old footprint, outlined with the final footprint of the new facility. The last straight now takes up the length of the bottom of the diagram, and the dual starting hills are about where the finish line used to be. The concession building stayed the same, and cranked out some amazing grilled grub for BMX crankers flying and driving in from sea to shining sea.

Friday was the very-first day of racing operations at the new facility, and it all came off remarkably well. That said, John and new BMX Director for the City of Oldsmar, Donavon Long, got to work right away to fine-tune this dream facility, so it’s even-better when the 2016 National Series touches down in Oldsmar next February.

The race tipped the scales at 185 motos on Saturday, which was a little smaller than some expected. But the on-track action was full-on from the first gate of the weekend, right up to the very-last. The new facility was a real draw for riders from the far-reaches of the map, and it made for some solid battles among competitors who may not normally “see” each other til the Grands.

Oldsmar was also the finale for the inaugural running of the USA BMX North American Supercross Series. Elite Men was stacked to the rafters, with 40 entries on the sheets Friday Night, while Elite Women had a smaller set, with nine and 11 riders, but most of the big players in the house, with a healthy crowd watching the action. The big checks hoisted on the podium in this year’s series were a major statement on how USA BMX has accomplished its mission of stoking the riders to new levels, and raising the bar of competition within the USA BMX Pro title contest.

News pulled together the following recap of some of the finer points of the racing, and the festivities that surrounded the opening of the new track.

Dual starting hills at Oldsmar BMX in Oldsmar, FLThe dual starting hills at the new Oldsmar BMX, set against an incredible Tampa sunset on Friday night.

Ronalds Rittins at the 2015 USA BMX Gator NationalsLatvian Ssquared shredder Ronalds Rittins tore it up in 13x on Friday and Saturday, acing the main both times out. He was not on the sheets for Sunday, but will be in Orlando this weekend for more Sunshine State action.

Carson Leet  at the 2015 USA BMX Gator NationalsSpeaking of 13x, it was happy birthday to Carson Leet on Sunday. Carson took second to Leo Hile in 12x on Saturday, and came into his new class loaded for bear. He scored the first round get-out, then proceeded to take the main. Double celebration in the Factory Ssquared pit.

Anabella Hammonds at the 2015 USA BMX Gator NationalsBella Hammonds got busy for Smilin Bill Ryan and the Supercross crew with double-deuces in 10G. The W3 of Silvana Jimenez doubled up on the weekend.

BMX News 2015 race coverage sponsored by Dan’s Comp
BMX News Race Coverage is Sponsored by Dan's Comp

Bubba Gonzales  at the 2015 USA BMX Gator NationalsIn Friday night’s SuperX Open Main, Zaithyel Soekandar from Aruba put a chill on the rest of the group, most specifically Bubba Gonzales. Bubba was on him to the final feet, but the stripe call went to Soekandar. Bubba came out spinnin on Saturday, and turned in a winning main event lap later in the day that was truly one for the books. Oh, and Bubba got the win both days in 16x.

Valentina Velasquez at the 2015 USA BMX Gator NationalsGreat shot of first round action in 12G. W2 Valentina Velasquez leads it here, and took the main event W on Saturday. Hailey Sinclair (ROC 1, at right) took the win on Sunday. Valentina also put a whoopin on the boys, winning 11-12 Mixed open both days.

Ryan Pettigrew at the 2015 USA BMX Gator NationalsRyan Pettigrew was riding great Friday night, until a major wreck on the second straight of the Friday night Super X Open semi took him out for the weekend. Here’s what Ryan told News about his situation:

I came out of the first turn on the bubble in fourth, and when I landed on the first pro landing my body weight was on the rear end of my bike, causing me to land in a manual. Next thing I know I’m going off the next lip, still in a manual (At one point I thought I was going to ride it out lol).

When I landed that next pro landing I cased it pretty hard and my hands blew off and I went into the next lip, but at that point I was in about third, so I had the majority of the pack still behind me, luckily only a couple hit me. I walked off the track but after I started having some pain in the back of my calf and realized I broke off off my brake lever in my calf! I got some stitches and staples and I’m all good now!

Yeowch! Thanks for the update, Ryan…we’re glad you’re doing better.

Jack Bakken at the 2015 USA BMX Gator NationalsJack Bakken and Jacob Trujillo battled big all weekend long in 10x. Jack rode the last straight like a pro and got the Saturday win. Jacob came back for the W on Sunday, with Jack in the two-spot.

Donavon Long is the new BMX Director for the City of OldsmarDonavon Long started off the week as a Californian and finished it as a Floridian, truckin across the country and reporting for duty as the new BMX Director for the City of Oldsmar, just in time for the ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday. About the new gig, Donavon told News:

My role with the city is to help bring in outside riders, federations, groups, schools clubs and teams to come and train at the Oldsmar track. Our goal is to help create a better and more useful/functional facility for both the youth and Olympic athletes of our sport.
John Sawyer stays on as the Track Operator of the facility, and the two BMX giants have some great ideas on plussing-up the facility, building on the big success of opening weekend.

Tori Hopperdietzel at the 2015 USA BMX Gator NationalsIt’s been a while since we’ve seen the Extreme Team ride of Tori Hopperdietzel. But she was back in her old place–up front–in Oldsmar, topping 21-25 Women both days. The class had five riders on Saturday, and four on Sunday, after Meredith Lidstone wrecked pretty hard on the first straight. We see the immediate aftermath of that in the background of this first round shot from Saturday.

After the race, we asked Tori what she’s been up to since last we saw her. Here’s what she told us:

After I graduated from high school, I found it hard to budget time for my racing, with full-time work and school schedules, plus the hockey coaching I was doing on the side, so my pedaling got put on the back burner while I established my direction in the adult world.

Three years went by, and local races just weren’t cutting it anymore. So, with some inspiration from a local BMX family, I ventured back into the national circuit hitting New Mexico, Minnesota and Washington in addition to this weekend in Florida.

There is a unique feeling that’s generated from national competition and in my opinion once that fire is sparked it isn’t easily put out. Getting out there after a hiatus was well….just like riding a bike :), it was great to feel the rush again and I can’t wait to see what the future will bring!

Triston Judd at the 2015 USA BMX Gator NationalsTriston Judd was nuclear in Oldsmar. He’s been bakin those cakes in 15x almost every trip this year, but this weekend was one-up on the usual speed setting. Chalk-up twin wins at the Gators, for those of you keeping score at home.

Local Political leaders at the opening of the new Oldsmar BMX facilityFriday night was the first race on the new track, and things went perfectly to plan. Saturday saw an impressive turnout of city and county government officials, as well as US Rep. Gus Bilirakis from Florida’s 12th Congressional District. This turnout was among the highest “wattage” of politicians attending any BMX track opening, ever. It goes a long way to prove how much the community leaders in the area care about BMX Racing as a centerpiece of their youth sports and sports tourism programs. Pictured at the Saturday recognition ceremony: USA BMX CEO BA Anderson; Oldsmar BMX Track Operator, John Sawyer; Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis; City of Oldsmar Leisure Services Director, Lynn Rives; Oldsmar City Manager, Bruce Haddock, and USA BMX COO, John David (not pictured: Kevin Smith, Director of Sports, St. Petersburg Clearwater Sports Commission).

Anna Johnson at the 2015 USA BMX Gator NationalsAnna Johnson has been jammin lately, and put a few more aces on the board in Oldsmar. Double in 15-16 Girl Cruiser and a win in 15-16 Girls on Sunday. She dropped the double double to fellow Texan Korie Gilbert, with a second in class on Saturday.

Hunter Brown at the 2015 USA BMX Gator NationalsThe Tampa Bay salt air kept Salt Lake star Hunter Brown runnin smooth in Oldsmar. Double wins for the Rocket in 14x, against a stacked class. Jesse Welch got the deuce on Saturday and Hunter’s homie, RadRo Jaworsky, got it on Sunday.

VIP Platform at Oldsmar BMXBest seat in the house: the VIP platform behind the second turn gives the well-connected the full view of all the crunchin and munchin on the track, while gourmet munchies are served–all under Old Glory.

Alise Post and Mariana Pajon at the 2015 USA BMX Gator NationalsMajor moments with major names on day two, in turn two. Saturday’s Elite finals both had major turns-of-fortune in the second turn. First, it was Alise leading to deep into the second straight, when Mariana railed the outside, and got by her, and on to the day two win.

Connor Fields, Joris Daudet and Sam Willoughby at the 2015 USA BMX Gator NationalsThen, in the next main, Sam led it to about the same point as Alise did, when Joris came through the inside and led Sam high on the turn. That gave Connor the open door to cut hard to the right and swoop both of them from his third place position. This is the moment it happened. Connor took it on home from here.

Looking back at the Women’s race for a second, it’s interesting to note that Mariana tripled the entry into the first turn on Friday night, and Alise got the win. Alise tripled it on Saturday, and Mariana got the win. It didn’t really have any bearing on what happened down-range, but still…interesting.

Here are all four of the Elite finals, courtesy of USA BMX:

Elite Final Videos

Elite Women Day 1

Elite Men Day 1

Elite Women Day 2

Elite Men Day 2

With the first big success in the books, the table is set well for Oldsmar BMX to continue it’s long tradition of great racing–both in the local program, and when the world comes to town. Everyone we talked to is inking in the three-day 2016 Gator Nationals (February 19-21) on their schedule. We’ll be there, and hope we’ll see you in the viewfinder as well.

—Mike Carruth

Photo Galleries

Friday Photos: 2015 Gator Nationals/North American SX

Saturday Photos: 2015 Gator Nationals/North American SX