Columbia hosts Missouri Rock Crawlers State Championship

Saturday, June 23, 2012 | 4:49 p.m. CDT; updated 7:39 p.m. CDT, Saturday, June 23, 2012
A group of 19 men competed for the Missouri Rock Crawlers State Championship in Capen Park on Saturday. The competitors raced the clock as they navigated their handmade radio-controlled trucks over rocky terrain.

COLUMBIA —When most people spend time working on their cars on the weekend, they're in the garage or the driveway.

But on Saturday, a group of men were busy driving their cars in the middle of Capen Park — radio-controlled toy vehicles, that is.

These 19 men were competing in Missouri Rock Crawlers State Championship.

Four clubs from around the state brought 19 competitors to race their handmade, miniature rock crawlers up the park's rocky incline to compete for the state title.

"We’re just a bunch of grown-ups playing with toy trucks," David Shreve, 51, said.

Shreve and his son Caleb Shreve, 16, compete with the Southern Missouri Radio Controlled Rock Crawlers, along with close friends Randy Schweke, 52, and his son Austin Schweke, 15.

For these duos, it's an opportunity to spend time together as father and son.

"It is a fun way for Caleb to learn to use tools and think mechanically," Shreve said. "He won’t want me to say this, but he was shy. This brought him out of his shell to meet new people."

The Shreves also have a handmade course in their garage, so both father-son duos can practice in the winter.

Randy Schweke said he is glad the sport gives his son the opportunity to think on his own. 

“It’s fun to see them compete,” Randy Schweke said. “I just do it because he (Austin) enjoys doing it.”

Saturday's competitors had to qualify for the state championships. And they were split into two divisions based on how big the car's wheels are.

The competitors guided their radio-controlled cars through an obstacle course that their club set up in the park. 

The competitor with the lowest score takes the title. Competitors subtract points for each gate they successfully navigate through on the course. Points are added when the radio-controlled car commits a penalty, such as hitting goals, reversing the vehicle, driving out of bounds and rolling over.

Each competitor is allowed a spotter from his team to help guide him through the course.

Kevin LeBeaume, 27, of St. Louis, placed first in the division for RC trucks with 2.2-inch rims. He brought home the win for the River City Rock Crawlers for the second year in a row.

The River City Rock Crawlers have competed around the country. Each new location brings a unique challenge, LeBeaume said.

"We’ve been to a bunch of different places, but nothing like this," he said.

The trees along the bluffs in Capen Park offer shade, which keeps the competitors cool, but the lack of sun causes the rocks to remain slick with a lot of debris for the trucks to navigate through. The low traction created a challenge for the competitors, LeBeaume said.

"I’m just lucky to have good teammates and friends to help me out," LeBeaume said. 

The  first- and second-place winners from each division qualified for the national championship title in Alabama in September.

Supervising editor is Ted Hart.

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