What a great beginning to the STRA year!  It started with a good turnout for the 2018 Awards Banquet on February 23rd at the traditional site of the Western Sizzlin’ in Jasper, TN.  We had about 65 people attend which was surprisingly good given the record setting rain, flooding and flu all around us.  The high water did unfortunately cancel the Fun Ride scheduled at the TTC on Sunday.   February is never a predictable month.  The banquet night was about all the riders and our ten Champions:  Alexander Niederer, Nathan Glinski, Tim Cone, Jamie Gourley,  Jay Estes, Gary Holbert, Doug Raney, Dennis Simoes, Steve Glinski and Jimmy Sharp.

Other highlights of the night included Randy Sharp being inducted into the STRA Hall of Fame for all of the contributions he made to the STRA and to the sport over the years.  He is the eighth representative and the first person to receive this honor in ten years.  Sherman Smith III won the Most Improved Rider for 2018 and Frank Alexander won the Best Event award for Trackrock.  This was very fitting since it was the last time that we will be able to have an event at that venue.  The Glinskis (Steve and Nathan) competed head to head in the Champ Games of stacking cups while Jamie Gurley showed everyone how to flip a bottle.   We have already submitted an order for better weather for next year so we hope to have a real blow out at the Western Sizzlin’ and Fun Ride at the TTC for 2019.

Our first Championship competition event of the year, Fun-in-the-Sun, was held on March 8th and 9th at Hardrock in Ocala, Florida.  What a great event this was!  Alex Niederer’s Florida Trials Association really did a terrific job.  It was an event of FIRSTS in many ways for the STRA.  It was the FIRST event to use colored gate markers; the FIRST to combine Vintage A, B & C with Twin Shock A, B and C into Vintage Novice, Vintage Intermediate and Vintage Sportsman.  It was also the FIRST event to have official podiums for the awards ceremony, which was an idea put forth by Jose Rivas and Andreas Niederer at the end of last year.   We had exceptional weather of eighty-seven degrees, no humidity and a light, cool breeze with sunny skies.  What a refreshing environment compared to the weather we endured all winter in the southeast.  The weekend was capped off by a large number of riders (66 Saturday, 56 Sunday) coming from the southeast region but also from Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Quebec!  We all rode four loops of eight, well-planned sections checked by FTA members.  A big thank you for that!  Another big thank you goes to Sadie Thompson who was at the event with Nathan Glinski and volunteered her time and expertise at sign-in/score keepers table on Saturday.  No one realized she was doing the job of four people until she wasn’t there on Sunday!

Rockcrusher, rounds three and four of the Championship Series, came two weeks later on March 23rd and 24th.  We again had a great turnout (74 riders Saturday and 71 on Sunday) and great weather at our new, north Georgia venue.  Frank Alexander did a wonderful job of finding and orchestrating a replacement for his own Trackrock venue which we are no longer able to use due to land use restrictions.  It was enjoyable to see everyone discover the area and ride the new terrain.  Frank did a great job with section setup, limiting gates and promoting flow.  This is an objective we are asking all promotors to adhere to this year to standardize our events.    This event also added a few more FIRSTS for the STRA.  This included the FIRST Shadow Program overseen by Alan Shirley.  The program is designed to have Champ and Expert riders work with lower level riders, “shadowing” them as they ride the competition, providing support and coaching.  The goal is that every novice, intermediate and even sportsman rider has the opportunity to ride with a higher level rider at least once during the year.  So far the Shadow Program has received great feedback and it will continue to be developed as the year progresses.  The event also saw the FIRST use of a new rule which expands how tie scores are handled.  It was a good thing we added this verbiage to the rule book because every scenario in the rule was used to break ties between six riders on Sunday!  Vintage Sportsman riders Gary Holbert and Mark Sturtevant’s places were determined by first point dropped; Sportsman riders David Barber and Tony Lee’s places were determined by the greatest number of twos scored; and Sportsman riders Hunter Grim and Adam McCluskey’s results had to be ruled a tie because the they had the same number of points, cleans, ones, twos, threes and all of their 24 points came in the exact same places.  It was a weekend of FIRSTS in a few different ways and great memories were made.

Both Fun-in-the-Sun and Rockcrusher are not events to be missed next year!

Next up on the event schedule before our summer break is Papa Joe’s Hickory Hills on April 13th and 14th in Lenoir City, TN and the Spring Splash at the Trials Training Center on May 4th and 5th.  We hope to see a continued high turnout at each of these events.

Until next quarter, keep riding and enjoy rounds five through eight of the STRA Championship Series.