BMX riders kick up dirt on south side
Posted Jun 11, 2007 by BIKEIOWA user
All ages and sizes race with DM metro club
By JARED CURTIS
REGISTER STAFF WRITER
Every Sunday afternoon from April until October, BMX racing enthusiasts gather on the city's south side.
They range in age and size, but they are matched in skill and determination. That is why in 1999 the Des Moines Metro BMX Club was born.
"It's an exciting sport and it is a great family involvement activity," said club President Kittie Weston-Knauer. "Now that I'm retiring, it's going to be my life."
Weston-Knauer was principal of Scavo Campus, the Des Moines district's alternative school, until classes ended last week. She is the oldest BMX female racer in the nation, and plans to focus most of her free time on the sport she loves and the growth of the club.
"I'm glad I can devote more time," she said. "I want to work on getting more females into riding.
The Des Moines Metro BMX Club practices at the Ewing BMX Park, 1701 S.E. McKinley Ave., every Sunday from noon to 2:30 p.m., with races at 2:30. When school is not in session, there is racing at 6:30 p.m. Thursday evenings, with practice starting at 5 p.m.
About 15 members - ages 7 to 58 - attend on a regular basis and the club is always looking for new members of all skill levels.
"I have always liked racing," said 2006 racing season's top rookie rider, Danny Webb, 12, a seventh-grader at McCombs Middle School. "I love the feeling of going fast and the air you feel under you as you hit a big jump."
When Webb got into racing, the closest parks were too far for weekly trips, so his mom, Marsha, began looking for a track closer to home. She was surprised at what she found.
"The whole time we were looking for a closer track and it was in our own city," she said. "This is Des Moines' best kept secret."
Work on the track began in 2001. Both Des Moines and Polk County Public Works delivered more than 6,000 cubic yards of dirt for the track. With equipment donated by the Apprentice Coordinators of the Building and Trades Unions, the track was completed in August 2001. The starting gate was built by Iron Workers Local 67 and the air compression that operates the gate was donated by Home Depot.
"My dad used to race, so he got into the sport," said racer AJ Conarth, 13, a seventh-grader at Brody Middle School. "It's fun and I get to hang out with my friends."
Forty-six riders competed on the 1,350-foot downhill track during the inaugural race on Aug. 12, 2001. More than 230 racers participated a year later.
"I like the camaraderie and the competition," said Webb. "We are against each other but we are a team first."
In 2004, the park was reworked by the National Bicycle League. Excavating and grading smoothed the track and an architecture class from Iowa State University built a tower, which allowed the announcers to see all the racing action and gave photographers a bird's-eye view of the racers. There also was a rain garden built by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, to protect the site from erosion.
"Our volunteers give generously of their time, energy and effort to ensure that BMX racing will continue to be a family-oriented sport that provides youth and adults a healthy, recreational sport," said Weston-Knauer.
For the littlest racer, 7-year-old Vinnie Allen of Indianola, its purpose is simpler.
"It's fun and I like going fast," he said.
Reporter Jared Curtis can be reached at (515) 284-8129 or email@example.com