Highland’s Samantha Brown takes first BMX crown, winning female division
By Anthony D. Alonzo Post-Tribune correspondent December 19, 2012 11:14PM
Ron Zurek of Highland, his daughter Linda Zurek, 6, and teammate Logan Gil, all of the ZMX Racing team, regroup after their race at Steel Wheels BMX Track in Hobart, Ind. Saturday December 15, 2012. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 21, 2013 4:00PM
A rising Midwest BMX star finally earned a title among a tough field of guy riders, and a Highland racer beat out a small filed of girls for her first championship in the Future Pro Challenge, which was run Saturday in Hobart.
In the cavernous Steel Wheels Indoor BMX facility, race coordinators looked to higher cash payouts and the buzz generated by BMX’s debut in the London Olympics to attract a large field of riders to the showcase for rising talents.
That mission was accomplished as 32 male cyclists showed up. But with just eight female riders registering, officials made some adjustments that shortened the girls competition and made for one of the shortest events in the annual FPC’s nine years.
From the first crash of the gate opening to the dust that trailed racers past the finish line, Rockford, Ill., resident Tyler Whitfield peddled to leads ahead of his Answer/SSquared/TLD teammates and the rest of the field. The 17-year-old veteran FPC racer swept his motos and semifinals, ensuring the best gate position and a shot at the title.
Lake Station-based BMXer Tony Claar, 23, set a new standard for himself by gaining two first-place finishes in a row, but was bested by Whitfield in the third qualifier, then got third place in the semis. Claar, a mechanic and repo man, had to settle for a No. 5 spot in the main gate.
Claar hardly settles for things, though; he expressed a drive to continue to work toward his BMX dreams.
“I’m almost at my peak,” said Claar. ”Once (a BMX racer) is 25 to 28 is when you get your peak.”
In the main event, Whitfield and teammates Brandon “Big B” Ceslok, 16, and 14-year-old BMX rising star Justin Richmond led the way out of the gate. They each swept past an early collision in a tight first turn and Whitfield protected his holeshot by staying a bike’s length in front of Ceslok. He sped in for a win and a celebratory gulp of Gatorade.
“It’s a better feeling when you’re ahead in an indoor track where it’s harder to pass,” Whitfield said.
Claar notched a fifth-place finish.
With only eight ladies in the competition, the girls voted to have one race determine their gates for the main — a computer determined positions for that qualifier.
Highland BMXer Samantha Brown got a No. 1 spot and her Munster rival Nicole Mirowski grabbed the fourth slot for the finals.
Brown’s fourth attempt at an FPC title and trophy was the charm.
Peddling like there was no tomorrow, Brown, 17, put multiple bike lengths between herself and most of the pack. The currently unsponsored racer cruised to a first-place finish, with Mirowski earning a third-place finish.
“I don’t know, I just ride my bike,” she said matter-of-factly. “I’m looking for sponsorship right now. I’m very motivated and have a good work ethic.”
Perplexed at the small showing of female participants, FPC founder Gene Bedinger said he would have to reevaluate whether to run the girls side of the FPC if more support doesn’t develop.
“We did everything we could (for marketing) in the BMX world,” Bedinger said. “I’m very curious as to why it’s not a better turnout for the girls.”
He added: “For the guys race I’m extremely happy; 32 is the number I wanted for four full gates of eight riders, which is very entertaining for the spectators.”