Olympian Alise Willoughby wins 8th straight USA Cycling national championship at 2018 Gator Nationals

2016 Olympic silver medalist Alise Willoughby won her eighth consecutive USA Cycling National Championship on Sunday, Feb. 25, the final day of the 2018 Gator Nationals at the Oldsmar Sports Complex.

More than 1,100 American and international BMX riders, including 20 Olympians, from 15 countries and 30 states, descended on the Supercross track at the Oldsmar Sports Complex last weekend for the 2018 USA BMX Gator Nationals.

The three-day event, which typically features many of the top riders in the world, was held under sun-splashed skies and saw 2016 silver medalist Alise Willoughby win her eighth consecutive USA Cycling National Championship on Sunday as her new husband, fellow 2016 silver medalist Sam Willoughby, who broke his neck while training last year, watched from the infield.

The win capped an exciting weekend that featured  hundreds of practice races and motos under unseasonably warm February temperatures, which Willoughby acknowledged made her victory a bit more challenging than the others.

Alise Willoughby in action at the 2018 Gator Nationals.

“It was definitely, for me, one of the harder years here,” the 27-year-old Minnesota native said after the medal ceremony on Sunday afternoon.

“It didn’t really play to my strengths, with three days of racing in this hot weather. But I got it dialed in today and rather than focus on my weaknesses, I focused on my strengths and it seemed to work. It’s good to be versatile and not always lead from start to finish. National championships are always the hardest and this is a challenging track, so to come away with a victory today was very satisfying.”

While the high temps may have been a drawback to some of the riders, the warm weather was a big draw for many who made the cross-country trip to the Sunshine State.

Large crowds turned out for the 2018 Gator Nationals event at the Oldsmar Sports Complex.

“My son is not liking this heat, but it sure beats the 10-degree cold where we left!” South Dakota resident Michelle Rystrom said as she watched her 15-year-old son, Trevor, compete on Sunday.

Rystrom also praised Oldsmar’s recently renovated $2 million Supercross track.

“I love this place,” she said. “I took a picture of it this morning and sent it to our track director back home and said, ‘Is this in our budget?’ and he said, ‘No!’”

More than 1,100 American and international riders participated in the 2018 USA BMX Gator Nationals at the Oldsmar Sports Complex over the weekend.

USA BMX National Coordinator Chris Luna was effusive in his praise of the track as well as the local leaders who help promote the sport in the area.

“We at USA BMX are blown away with the turnout this weekend,” Luna said. “It’s up from last year, that’s always a good thing.”

Luna added “the weather definitely is something that people want to come to Florida for, and from a national level, this is one of the top tracks in the world. And the other thing is the leadership of the local BMX program, John Sawyer and his team, and Mayor (Doug) Bevis. We couldn’t do it without the help of the city of Oldsmar.”

Oldsmar’s $2million Supercross track is considered to be one of the best in the world, according to USA BMX officials.

When asked where the event ranked on the list of annual races, Luna didn’t hesitate.

“It’s one of our top five, without a doubt,” he said.

“It’s a destination. It’s something that’s really, really close to our heart. We’ve been partners with Oldsmar BMX for many, many years now and it’s an event that I mark on my calendar every year and I look forward to it.”

Mayor Bevis was equally pleased with the turnout for this year’s event.

Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis poses with American rider Alise Willoughby, who won her 8th straight USA BMX National Championship at the 2018 Gator Nationals.

“The weather was beautiful, it was great to see a packed house every day, and the talent is just incredible,” he said after posing for photos with the Willoughbys as well as men’s elite champion, Corben Sharrah.

“This was a great event for our city.”

Enjoy this photo gallery of sights from the 2018 USA BMX Gator Nationals:

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