Area racer takes BMX title

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 26, 2002

CLARKS GROVE – It was the final race of the season, a state championship was on the line, and Phillip Olson wasn’t about to hold back.

He went for it. And he brought home the gold.

Olson won the 2002 American Bicycle Association Minnesota BMX state title in the 14-year-old Expert Division, beating out more than 65 other riders for top honors.

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Olson, who lives in Clarks Grove and is a freshman at New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva High School, is a multi-sport athlete, but so far he’s enjoyed the most success on the race track. He finished second in the statewide points standings the last two years, and was third the year before that. The goal this year was to take the title.

“That’s what I was looking for,” he said.

It didn’t come easy though.

The state championship is determined by combining rider’s place at the state finals with their top three finishes in three qualifying races. Although Olson was the points leader entering the final race, he still needed a win for the championship with several riders within a few points.

Olson had a tough draw for the final, gate eight, and he was about in the middle of the pack entering the first turn. It was there he made his move, finding an opening, powering his way into the lead and cruising to an easy victory.

“I didn’t come out real well, but I had a real good pass,” said Olson. “I just saw a passing lane no one else saw and I took it. I went for broke. It was ‘To win or not to win.’ I got lucky and did the right thing.”

His parents, Richard and Denise Olson, feel they have done the right thing getting their son involved in the sport and that it has had a positive impact. He agrees.

“It’s helped me concentrate more on other things,” said Olson. “My first year in racing, I was not the best student, I didn’t have the greatest grades. My grades just got a lot better, and it’s been like that since I’ve been racing. I think it helps me stay focused in school.”

He has also displayed outstanding sportsmanship, eagerly helping younger, inexperienced riders, a number of whom said after the state finals, “If it couldn’t be me, I was glad it was you.”

“I like helping the little kids,” said Olson. “I’d like to get more people involved.”

He hopes to do that next year with the Crossroads BMX Track in Geneva, which is owned by the city but ran by the Olson family. He also promotes the sport through regular trips to Albert Lea’s skate park, where BMX bikes are allowed on the ramps.

The state title wasn’t his first racing honor. At 9, in the Novice Division, he won the Land-O-Lakes Nationals in Shakopee and, at 10, was first in the Intermediate Division at the same event. He has raced at several other national events in Illinois, Kansas, Ohio, Missouri and Oklahoma, and is now looking to win a national race in the Expert Division.

Most recently, Olson placed second and eighth, respectively, in two classes at a major regional race in Nebraska. He’ll finish the season Thanksgiving weekend with the Grand Nationals in Tulsa.

Although he admits he’s entertained thoughts about someday racing motorcycles, Olson doesn’t see it happening anytime soon.

“I plan to stick with muscle rather than motors,” he said. “Moto-cross people may say different, but I think it takes more of a person to ride a bike than a motorcycle. If you win or lose, it’s all up to you, not the bike.”