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BMX Grand Nationals in Tulsa continue to fuel interest in the sport

By Kayleigh Thesenvitz World Correspondent

Cane Wood of Oklahoma City has been tearing up dirt tracks on his bicycle since he was 3 years old. Now he is ranked No. 1 in the world for 9-year-old BMX racers.

Wood won the title at the 2017 USA BMX Grand Nationals held this weekend at the River Spirit Expo for the 20th consecutive year.

Celebrating the 40-year anniversary of the American Bicycle Association, hosts of USA BMX, more than 3,000 individual racers and their families from 48 states and 30 countries competed in 733 races on an indoor track built into the lower half of the center.

“We really grew a lot this year because of international participation,” said John David, chief operating officer of USA BMX.

USA BMX Creative Director Craig Barrette said the American Bicycle Association is working on plans to relocate its headquarters from Gilbert, Arizona, to Tulsa. A plan was unveiled in July to build the headquarters and a stadium at downtown’s long-empty Evans-Fintube industrial site, near Archer Street and Lansing Avenue.

Despite the vast range of riders in age, skill level from novice to professional, and nationality, the main allure of BMX according to Barrette is the family feel.

Landon Kunz, 9, has raced for five years. For Kunz, this year has not been as strong as past years, but he isn’t daunted.

For encouragement he thinks back to how he got started.

“My grandpa took me to Sooner Nationals, and I saw all these little kids racing and I said ‘I want to try this,’ ” and so he did.

Kunz’s grandfather, Chuck Tryon, described the Grand Nationals like “getting to play flag football at the Super Bowl,” because children and professionals are all competing on the same track within hours of each other.

Riley Hagar, 16, has been with the Sand Springs BMX team for five years.

He started racing for the thrill and hopes to go pro some day. So far, Hagar has won three national championships and placed seventh in his age group at the Grands this year.

Darrick Shook of Tulsa races in the 46-and-over intermediate division. Shook raced as a teenager but took a 30-year hiatus before joining the local team Landstar after his teenage son got into the sport. Now they practice together as a family every weekend.

Among the younger competitors this year was the 6-year-old Texas boy, Lincoln Taylor, who has been practicing since he was 1 year old and aspires to be a professional racer.

“One of the coolest things about BMX is that it is such a family sport,” Barrette said. “Moms and dads are racing alongside their kids.”

He contrasted BMX with other sports where parents are forced to watch from the sidelines.

“From the racer’s perspective, the fun part is hitting the jumps and getting that adrenaline rush,” Barrette said. “It’s truly a sport for all ages.”

Interested families can get involved with BMX at the Sand Springs track.

For the children looking up to Cane Wood and the adults admiring his accomplishments, the 9-year-old offered a few words of encouragement, “Train hard, practice hard and win!”

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