ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CYNTHIA MARTENS
She’s won a national championship and given Marion County a reason to be pedal-power proud.
Jamie Spoonemore, a sixth grader at Goessel Elementary School, recently took first place in her division at the National Pedal Pull Association competition.
“Wow,” Jamie said, recalling her reaction when she was named the national winner of the age 11 female division.
Supporting her efforts in kiddie pedal-pull competitions are dad Ken, mom Donna, sister Holly, three step-brothers, and grandmothers Lois Janzen of Goessel and Priscilla Arney of Hillsboro.
Pedal-pull competitions for children ages 4 to 12 are prevalent in Kansas at many fairs and festivals.
Division winners in regional competitions qualify to enter state pulls. First and second place division winners at state move on to nationals, and those finalists enter the international competition.
The object of a sanctioned pull is to pedal a kid-size chain-and-gear tractor hitched to a weighted sled in tow. As the sled moves forward, it becomes more difficult to pull.
Contestants must cross a finish line, and competitors are ranked according to the longest pulls.
“In order to do a full pull, you have to go 30 feet at the state competition and 50 feet at nationals,” Donna said.
Weights on the sled vary according to the age group and the arena surface.
“Some surfaces are easier to pull on so they put more weight on,” Donna said.
“Jamie has pulled at least 300 pounds as a full pull, and she’s pulled at least 340 pounds part of the way.”
One of the keys to winning at pedal-pull competitions is having the body weight to pull the sleds.
At 220 pounds and 5 feet 6 inches, Jamie has an advantage over the average 11 year old wanting to enter a pedal pull.
“She was born without a thyroid, and if they wouldn’t have caught that, she wouldn’t be with us,” Donna said.
“She has done very well. That makes her real special.”
Life outside of pedal pulls includes watching television, playing basketball and taking dance lessons. In school, her favorite subject is math, Jamie said.
“It’s always been math,” Donna said. “She’s very, very bright in math.”
Jamie entered her first competition at Goessel Threshing Days in 1999.
While roaming the grounds of the festival, she discovered a pedal-pull contest and received Donna’s permission to enter the age-7 division.
Boys and girls compete against each other in their age groups at the local level but are separated at the state, national and international levels.
Without any prior knowledge of the dynamics of a pedal pull or any training, Jamie won first place in Goessel.
“I got a bag of M&Ms for a prize,” Jamie said of her first win.
That was the only competition she entered that year.
“We didn’t do anything because I didn’t know what it was,” Donna said. “So we ignored it.”
In competitions since then, she garnered first-place wins in 2002 at Threshing Days and at the Marion County Fair. The family limited participation in competitions to Goessel, Hillsboro and Salina until this summer.
A win against another rival at Goessel Threshing Days in August motivated Jamie to compete more often.
This year she won first place at the Dickenson County Fair, Marion County Fair, the Osage County Fair and a festival in Chapman.
In Chapman, Jamie beat the international champion.
“She’s beat her six or seven times,” Ken said.
Jamie and sister Holly entered a competition in Longford the day before the state fair in Hutchinson.
“She got first and Holly got second,” Donna said. “So now, they’ve qualified for state next year.”
At this year’s state competition, Jamie pulled 59 feet, 8 inches.
“So she almost had two full pulls,” Donna said.
Jamie walked away with her first-place trophy and prepared to enter the national competition.
In August, Donna encouraged Jamie to train on hills surrounding their rural home.
“I ride my bike up the hill and back, that’s two miles,” Jamie said.
The expenses involved in the regional and state competitions have been minimal, Donna said.
“You’re just paying if there’s an entrance fee at the festivals, but most of the time they’re free fairs,” Donna said. “You don’t pay anything except for the gas, and we eat on the way there.”
Ken agreed and said, “It gives us something to do on the weekends. What’s $10 worth of gas when you can have a lot of fun.”
But at the national level, the drive to Omaha and other costs involved in the trip were off-set by the generosity of several area sponsors.
The list of sponsors includes More Inc., Duerksen Harvesting, Mike and Milts Small Engine Service, Health Tactics, Mid Kansas Coop, Citizen’s State Bank, Crossroads Credit Union, Ratzlaff Automotive and Mr. T’s Car Wash.
On Sept. 20, accompanied by Ken, Donna, Holly and “Grandma Lois,” Jamie arrived in Omaha, Neb., to compete against 15 other girls in her age division at nationals.
Evaluating contestants from Kansas and those from states such as Vermont, New York and Texas, Donna and Jamie said they felt the competition was realistically narrowed down to just one girl.
Jamie was the third girl to compete in her division. The rules allow one parent to be in the arena during the competition, and Donna took her place to cheer on her daughter.
“So I got to stand in front of the tractor and yell at her to ‘keep coming, keep coming, keep pedaling,'” Donna said.
“And when they showed the distance I said, ‘Oh, great job, great job.”
Jamie’s winning pull was 45 feet, 9 inches that day. The contestant coming in second-place pulled 40 feet, 9 inches.
“I probably screamed more than Jamie,” Donna said. “I get pretty excited when she wins.”
Winners of the top-five pulls were recognized, and as the first-place winner, Jamie received a trophy and a $100 savings bond.
“Jamie was just glowing like a big ole’ candle when she went out there and got her trophy,” Ken said.
The family celebrated by driving to Topeka and having dinner there with relatives.
Jamie’s win qualifies her for the international competition next year in Lincoln, Neb. The five national winners from each age group will compete against winners from Canada.
Kansas contestants at nationals made their state proud, Donna said.
“We had a very good showing. There were a lot of Kansas kids in the top five in just about all the categories.”
When Jamie competes in Lincoln at the international pull, she’ll probably be wearing her lucky red visor-worn backwards and upside down.
“I wore it when I first beat the international champion,” Jamie said with a grin.
For other boys and girls interested in entering pedal-pull contests, Jamie was willing to pass along some winning tips.
“At the beginning, if you can get a fast start, you can go farther,” she said.
To get a fast start-pedal fast from the starting gate.
“Never wear sandals,” Jamie said. “You want to wear tennis shoes because they work best.”
And one final bit of advice?
“Always try your best, and your best is all you can do,” Jamie said.