Malvern MX Area Qualifier Report -- 4/12/17
Waynesburg, Ohio came to life over the second weekend of April as the action got underway at Malvern Motocross for the Loretta Lynn’s Mid-East area qualifier. Friday’s forecasts called for nearly three inches of snow to cover northeast Ohio and the surrounding area which had it’s effect on proceedings for the weekend -- practice had to be cancelled on Friday in order to maintain optimal track conditions for Saturday and Sunday’s racing due to the inclement weather. Fortunately, the Rogers family knows how to look after a motocross track and Jason and the gang were able to produce a racer’s paradise for the remainder of the weekend. The weather could not have been any better as spring was in full effect; Saturday saw conditions that ranged from the mid to low sixties while Sunday produced partly cloudy conditions with temperatures nearing seventy degrees. Nobody could have asked for better racing conditions and nobody could have asked for better racing as the battles were raging all weekend long.
There were some heavy hitters in attendance in the pro class and both the Open Pro Sport and 250 A divisions delivered to their fullest potential. It was the Pennsylvania native of Ben Nelko who fought his way to the front of the of the first moto and never looked back, leaving his rivals in his roost as he stormed to the checkered flag aboard his MPR Suspension / Race Tech backed KTM ahead of Johnathan Wells in a close contention. The final moto produced very different results from the drop of the gate as Wells shot out to an early lead and the overall firmly in his grasp, leaving Nelko to fight back from a poor start to a hard-earned fourth position. Wells took the overall on his FCC Motosports backed Honda ride with Nelko and Ohio’s own Michael Hand rounding out the top three. The 250 A class was a different story for Hand as he was able to put his #131 Yamaha machine out front in both motos, finishing up the class with a pair of perfect 1-1 finishes ahead of Greensburg, Pennsylvania’s Vinny Luhovey Jr.
“In the first moto, I passed Shine and Wells for the lead on the third lap and Wells stayed with me until the finish. In the second moto, I pulled a third placed start and me and Lippman crashed and I came from fifteenth to fourth in four laps,” said Nelko of his Open Pro Sport races.
Nelko was able to put two motos together in the Collegeboy class as he got out front in both races and controlled the pace from the early stages, going on to win them both by a comfortable margin. The battle for the rest of the podium didn’t go unnoticed and it was the Ontario native of Austin Watling who came away with a pair of second place finishes ahead of Michael Hand in third position. The Junior 25+ class had some surprises as the younger brother of Darryn Durham, Shane, made the trip across the border and laid down the Pennsylvania law in Ohio. He was in a league of his own during both motos as he easily cruised to a 1-1 overall victory, utilizing his catalog of professional experience to propel him to the regional qualifier at Ironman Raceway.
The B class produced some of the best racing of the weekend as it always does, but there seemed to be two likely competitors that rose to the occasion each and every moto -- the Yamaha duo of Justin Rodbell and Marco Cannella. The two of them shared the spoils in 250 B and 450 B as Rodbell took the overall on the smaller bike and Cannella came away with both wins on the larger displacement machine with North Carolina’s Eugene Christian III also putting himself on the podium in both classes. Ontario, Canada’s Cannella wasn’t simply satisfied with his scintillating performances in the B class, but he also lit up the ranks in the Schoolboy 2 class as he went on to take both moto wins ahead of fellow Yamaha pilot, Nathan Augustin. Cannella will undoubtedly be a contender as the year moves forward as he has definitely shown the speed to do some serious damage at the Ranch later this year.
The spoils of victory were frequently shared in the C class, but there were a couple of names that stuck out from the rest of the competition. Rochester, New York’s Blaze Cremaldi managed to win all four of his motos aboard his blazing fast Yamaha machine as he took the overall in both 125 and 250 C. Another rider that was able to come away from the weekend with two overall victories was the Canadian rider of Dakota Yaskow. Our northern neighbors are definitely making their imprint on the amateur motocross scene in the United States, and the qualifier at Malvern was no different. Yaskow went undefeated in 250 C Limited and 250 C Jr, promoting him to the regional qualifier at Ironman with relative ease. Clinton, Pennsylvania's Brian Saunier Jr. also managed to grab a bit of the spotlight in the C class as he fought his way to the overall win in the 450 C division, as well as a runner-up position in 250 C.
The Women (12+) Amateur class was a bit of a run away for the KTM rider of Nicole Voorhees. It was her first major competitive race back after returning from an ACL surgery and she was incredibly impressive after coming off of a winter with no seat time. The New York native laid it down throughout the weekend as she came away with a flawless pair of moto victories ahead of Delaware’s Shelby Benson and Ohio’s Alissa Guy. The Girls (11-16) class was similar in the sense that Landry Hazen was untouchable on her Kawasaki throughout both days of racing. The Michiganian made the trip down south worth it as she won both of her motos in uncontested fashion, besting fellow Kawasaki rider Brighton Richard and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s Katie Goodman in the process.
One rider that was able to avoid the battles throughout the weekend was the #51 machine of Jace Kessler. The BTO Sports backed rider made the competition look silly on both days of racing as he dominated each and every moto that he contested, earning his passes to the regional qualifier in style in both Supermini classes as well as the Schoolboy 1 class. It’s expected for someone of Kessler’s caliber to impress on the supermini -- especially after receiving an invitation to race the Monster Energy Cup in Las Vegas last year, but he was also looking particularly flashy on the 125 over the course of the weekend. Another rider that impressed in the Schoolboy class was the Connecticut native of Hunter Calle. The Husqvarna rider was oozing style every time his tires dug into the rich, farm-fresh soil as he scrubbed each and every jump with confidence. Unfortunately, he rode a little bit too close to the edge in one of the last motos of the weekend and went down while scrubbing a tabletop. The incident brought out the red flag as he was escorted off the track, but fortunately he’ll make a full recovery.
Gavin Towers was arguably the most dominant rider of the entire weekend as he trounced the competition on his KTM across the 85cc and Mini Sr. classes. The Pennsylvania native was obviously feeling quite comfortable on the mid-east soil as he managed to win five out of six motos on his way to three overall victories. The only rider that was able to challenge him throughout the weekend was the Maryland native of Thomas Welch who put his Suzuki in first place in the opening 85cc (9-12) moto. Leland Golaszewski also performed well in the 85cc division as the Michigan native put himself at the head of qualifying contention with a pair of moto victories in the (9-11) Limited class, putting his confidence right where it needs to be heading into regionals.
There were some immense battles in the 65cc classes -- most notably between the #462 Orange Brigade backed machine of Luke Fauser and the #37 KTM of Joseph Rainone. Both riders swapped finishing positions, sharing the top step of the podium throughout their respective 65cc classes. Another standout in the 65cc classes was the Columbia, Pennsylvania native of Braxton Keiffer. The Husqvarna rider managed to put together a second place and first place finish in the (10-11) Limited class in order to beat out Rainone for the overall.
The racing was tight as usual on mini bikes as the New Jersey native of Canyon Richards and Pennsylvania’s William Canaguier III put their Cobras out front in the 51cc (7-8) class. The two of them swapped moto victories from Saturday to Sunday, but Richards ended up coming away with the overall due to the better second moto score. Both riders proved themselves as the class of the field throughout the weekend of racing as they separated themselves from the competition with bold displays of speed and style on their striking Cobra machines. Ohio was able to claim one overall with a couple of stellar rides from Trenton Burton in the (4-6) Limited class as he snatched both moto victories to claim his spot at the Chilitown regional.
All in all, it was a picture perfect spring weekend in early April at the northeast Ohio battlegrounds. Vendors lined the main thru lane in the pits which provided the compound with the atmosphere of a ‘local motocross nationa’l, therefore providing all of the riders and fans that attended with a splendid experience as well as their money’s worth. Briarcliff is only a couple of weeks away, so hopefully everyone is ready to do it all over again on April 29th and 30th!
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Also a huge shoutout to Brenden O’Brien with B.O.B Photography for his contributions and photos throughout the weekend. You can find his work at www.bobphoto.smugmug.com.