The 34th Annual American Bicycle Association Grand Nationals runs Thursday through Sunday at the QuikTrip Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the Tri-Cities can count itself well represented on the track thanks in part to the talent and commitment of three young men who have developed that skill at the Horn Rapids Athletic Complex in Richland.
Christian Young, 14, Mason Meininger, 9, and Rayce Reeves, 6, are the expert-rated riders who will challenge their respective fields on a gauntlet whose ups and downs challenge even the professionals.
"The track is big," said Rayce's father, Ken Reeves. "They always make it bigger and better for the grand finale."
But still the Horn Rapids track has its boosters in the BMX circuit.
"We have one of the best tracks in the Pacific Northwest," Ken said. "A lot of people at other races tell us how they like our track, because its made out of clay. Hard, compact and fast. It's definitely not as technical as the national course -- our rhythm section isn't as good.
"National is peak-y," he said. "You make a mistake, you're going down."
Horn Rapids BMX track operator Shawn Meininger -- Mason's father -- agrees that the national competition is fierce.
"Nationals is pretty tough and stressful," Shawn said. "Fastest riders in the country. Kids fly in from Canada, California or the East Coast, and they're all elite riders."
En route to this week's nationals, Rayce and Mason earned points toward qualification at races across the country, including big finishes at the state finals this past September at River Valley BMX in Sumner.
Richland's Rayce collected a grand total 1,319 points throughout the season and also brought home the Boys Age 6 state title in the 20-inch race bike category. Pasco's Mason placed second in state in both the 20-inch bike and Cruiser categories, and has 1,371 points to his credit.
Rayce and Mason also have the distinction of being the Nos. 1 and 2 points leaders overall -- against all age groups, novices and experts -- East of the mountains.
Rayce has a career cumulative 12,124 points to lead ABA Washington District 3, Mason follows with 9,445 points and Young is riding in the Top 5 overall with 8,032 points.