A local teen reached the biggest stage in her sport, last April, and in less than two weeks she’ll pedal for the pinnacle.
Jenna Jeffers, of Zimmerman, traveled cross-country to Redmond, Oregon, took on 25 of the best BMX riders in the country, and finished in the top-eight in two different classes of the Great Northwoods Nationals to qualify for the 2017 BMX World Championships that begin on July 23 and end July 30.
“It was really nerve-racking because I’m like the youngest one competing against 17-year-olds to 29-year-olds.”
Jeffers, 16, placed sixth out of 18 riders in the 17- to 24-year old class division then took first out of nine riders in the 17- to 29-year-old cruiser division. She had to compete against older riders because the divisions are based on a riders age at the end of 2017 and she has a birthday coming in September.
The moment will probably be more intense when she travels to Rock Hill, South Carolina for the World Championships. 31 other riders from the U.S. and as many as the top-16 in each of 40 other countries worldwide will compete for the title of world’s fastest BMX rider in each of her two divisions, alone.
That’s up to 671 riders in each division, looking to beat Jenna in a race similar to a non-motorized version of motocross, where competitors maneuver over hills and narrow turns against a group of up to eight people.
Throughout the entire event, 300 professional riders and 3,000 amateur riders are expected to attend, much bigger than any spectacle Jeffers has been a part of.
“Worlds will be even more nerve-racking,” Jenna said.
It may feel unique when she arrives, but the travel will be familiar. Jeffers has raced nationally for 10 years, taking many weekend trips across the country, including eight so far in 2017.
“We just got back from Maryland [on Monday, June 12] and we’re literally packing up to go to Rockford, [Illinois] on Wednesday,” Jenna’s dad, Dan, said in an interview on June 12.
Six of those events came during the school year, but Jenna was still able to hold a 4.0 GPA during her sophomore year at Princeton High School, leaving very little free time before summer.
“I try to study a lot in the car when I can,” Jenna said. “I can’t stay still.”
Jenna’s been on the road a lot, but her passion for BMX started locally. Dan’s brother, Kevin, raced when he was young, so Dan tried it with his kids, taking Jenna to Rehbein’s in Lino Lakes.
“She started off on her princess bike,” Dan said. We tried that out and she liked it, so we bought her a beginning race bike, to now, what we have.”
Now, her home track is in St. Michael, where younger brother, Bo, also competes and currently leads the Cruiser division points standings. He’s eighth in the class division amongst all age groups.
Meanwhile, Jenna has accrued countless local trophies, sits 18th in her age group, nationally, and grabbed her second win on the national circuit at the East Coast Nationals in Severn, Maryland on June 9. Her first win came last year in Pennsylvania.
“I was so happy,” Jenna said.
She says it would be dream-like, forcing tears of joy if she added a gold plate, earned for a top-eight finish in the World Championships, to those medals. Her mom, Krissa, would join her.