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National Championships

Anthony Bucardo and Alise Willoughby Win Elite BMX Nationals Titles at Hardesty BMX in Tulsa

By: Angelina Palermo  May 08, 2023

Brayden Kempel and McKenzie Gayheart won the U23 categories, and Ethan Popovich and Ava Corley became the new Junior National Champions.

The BMX community returned to Tulsa, Okla., for the 2023 USA Cycling Elite BMX National Championships. Last year, the Tucson locals Corben Sharrah (Daylight Cycles) and Daleny Vaughn (DK Bicycles) took the Elite titles and fought for the repeat this year. On Sunday, the Americans climbed the 8-meter hill to compete in the USA Cycling National Championship in the Elite, U23, and Junior categories.

After a morning full of motos, it all came down to the main event. In the past 13 seasons, since the National Championships have been contended on an 8-meter supercross hill, the Elite Men’s National Championship sleeve has been worn by one of three Olympians: Connor Fields, Nic Long, or Corben Sharrah.

In the Elite Men’s main event, Cameron Wood (Phoenix Ariz.; Mongoose/USA BMX Foundation) took the holeshot, but Anthony Bucardo (San Martin, Calif.; Haro BMX) was on the attack. 24-year-old Bucardo made his move going into the last turn to take the win by a bike length. This was an incredible ride for Bucardo, winning one of his first pro events and taking home the Elite BMX National Title. Jeremy Smith (Seminole, Fla.; DK Bicycles) finished second, and Wood in third.

In the U23 race, Spencer Cole (Palm Harbor, Fla.; DK Bicycles) took the holeshot but got tangled up with Cameron Bramer (South Park, Pa.), both crashing out of the first turn. After that, the track was wide open for Rayne Lankford (Waltech Engineering; Houston, Texas) and Brayden Kempel (Ramsey, Minn.; OX / FXR / RIDE BRAND). Lankford was on the move, but Kempel was making up ground on the third straight. They went side-by-side on the final straight, and Kempel took the win at the line. In the Junior Men’s class, 17-year-old Ethan Popovich (Valparaiso, Ind.; DK Bicycles/ Duo Brand) doubled down, taking his second National Title.

In the Elite Women’s race, the Elites, U23s, and Juniors were combined, but scored in their respective categories. With a crash going into the first turn, reigning National Champion Vaughn was out of contention. It was all Alise Willoughby (Saint Cloud, Minn.; Team Toyota/ GW Bicycles) and Payton Ridenour (Pottstown; Pa.; Mongoose Bicycles) battling for the top spot. Willoughby crossed the line in first taking her 11th National title. Reigning U23 National Champion Mckenzie Gayheart (Fort White, Fla.; Full Tilt/ Radio) earned another win, successfully defending her title. 16-year-old Ava Corley (La Mirada, Calif.; Factory Rift-Tangent) claimed the Junior Women’s National Title.

Next up on the USA BMX pro schedule is Music City Nationals in Nashville on May 26-28, with the first UCI BMX Racing World Cup of the season in Sakarya, Turkey, on June 2-4.

Full Results