“Where the rubber meets the air!” is a fitting description of the Annual Soldotna Bike/Skate & Scooter challenge. Five years ago then Soldotna Mayor Peter Micciche created the event to give youth an opportunity to showcase their talents and a place to ride that would not interfere with local businesses, “This event is just too important to not occur or have go away because we’re too busy,” said now State Senator Micciche. “At the time we started the challenge it was in response to some trouble at the Mall and some negative public interaction with kids when they would get run away from businesses. So I gathered them together and the deal we made was if they would cease the negative interaction and use the skate park for their bikes and boards that we would invest in them, improving the park and sponsoring this annual challenge competition. And here’s what happened that first year we had over 80 police reports or calls at the Mall and that number steadily went down until two summers ago we had zero reports. So the kids have lived up to their end of the deal and I’m personally making sure this event happens each year,” said Micciche.
Over the years the participants have gotten older and younger as the next generation of bikers, skate boarders and scooter riders come to the park and the original kid’s progress into adulthood while honing their talents and tricks off the ramps at Soldotna Skate Park. Jacob Graham has participated in each challenge since its inception and was the first to show fans a 360 degree flip off the ramp on his bike. This year Graham was second to two time winner Mike McNab who was a beginner back then, “Everybody is getting better and you have to progress or you’ll fall behind everybody else. I started riding after everybody else, Jake was the first to do a 360, but we all learn from each other and help one another to get better. We’ve all taken our share of spills, but we encourage each other to get back on the bike because the hurt can’t compare to the thrill of getting it right,” McNab told the Dispatch. “I’ve been working on my backflips and flares and studying pro videos to keep getting better. I’m 22 now and I plan to keep riding until I can’t get back on the bike,” said Jacob Graham.
Five year old Ryder entered his first challenge with his scooter this year and said he started riding two years ago when he was only three, “This is my first medal and it was exciting being here today with the big kids.” 9-year-old Bradi Baker of Sterling came in second in the scooter competition, “It just takes practice, practice, practice and pretty soon you’re doing what looks impossible,” he said. “You can see the life lessons this sport teaches these kids,” added Sen. Micciche, “Not all kids are the same, but these kids truly know what it’s like to put some skin in the game, the keep trying until the succeed and learn that failure just brings them closer to success and they deserve the same recognition kids involved in any other sport deserve.” This year’s sponsors included Tesoro, ConocoPhillips, Jumpin’ Junction, the City of Soldotna, Joe Gallagher of HEA, the Micciche family and park parents Krista & Sean Schooley. Complete Challenge results available at www.peninsulaclarion.com.