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Monday, July 28, 2003
Updated: May 11, 3:28 PM ET
In The Dirt -- 07.28.03

By Alex Thompson
EXPN.com

 Alex
Alex is the Editor of FreestyleMTX.com and a commentator for ESPN's Moto X Championship Series.
The X Games are less than a month away and the motocross divisions are set. The Wild Card riders were announced this week, and the final riders awarded spots in L.A. are, in order of voting ...

Big Air
Travis Pastrana
Drake McElroy
Dave Demangos
Beau Bamburg
Mike Jones

Step-Up
Jeremy Carter
Jeremy Stenberg
Justin Homan
Jake Windham
Benoit Milot

Freestyle
Travis Pastrana
Ryan Hagy
Dustin Miller
Tommy Clowers
Jake Bowen

Every year, one final event solidifies the ambitions of the top motocross riders and provides hopefuls a last shot at qualifying for the X Games. This year, that event was the ESPN Moto X Championship, the final X Games qualifier, which took place on Randall's Island in NYC Friday, July 18 and Saturday, July 19.

Not only were nearly 20 X Games spots up for grabs, the WFA Championship titles in Big Air, Step-Up and Freestyle were on the line, as well. Following the qualifying events, the Ramps & Amps Invitational took place on the Island. Click here for complete coverage.


Diamond Dave Domangas stole the show at the Randall's Island qualifier, and heads to the X Games in Step-Up. Will he earn a Wild Card bid in Freestyle? Stay tuned.
First up ... the Step-Up qualifier.

This event has escalated into a frenzied battle to release Tommy Clowers' lock on the gold medal. Clowers, Mike Metzger and Brian Deegan pre-qualified from last year's X Games and Ronnie Renner and Matt Buyten qualified at previous events this year.

But the Cinderella story in Step-Up was Dave Demangos. A back-flipper hoping for a Big Air spot, Dave didn't plan to ride in the Step-Up qualifier for fear of injuring himself. But Chuck Carothers convinced him to step it up and it paid off.

Entering the qualifier, Dave was 96 points behind the leader and nothing less than a win would elevate him in the standings. Step-Up masters Ronnie Faisst, Doug Parsons, Ronnie Renner and Jeremy Carter were all bumped out in their third pass over the bar at 28 feet. Demangos was up against Kenny Bartram and WFA leader Matt Buyten as the bar went to 30, 32 and finally 34 feet (one foot off the world record of 35 feet) before Matt Buyten took himself out of the race.

It all came down to Bartram and Demangos. "No one has won all three WFA titles in one year, and I want to go for it," Bartram said before taking his jump. Bartram was the first to hit the jump and his front tire bumped the bar, sending it to the ground. If Demangos knocked the bar off in his next pass, it would send the two info a final dead heat. If Bartram were to win, he would earn enough points to win the 2003 WFA Championship.

Diamond Dave rolled up to the line and cleared the 35 ft. jump with room to spare, knocking the WFA title out of Bartram's hands and into Buyten's, and earning himself a win and a ticket to X.

The remaining four athletes in WFA points advancing to the X Games as a result of Randall's Island are Kenny Bartram, Myles Richmond, Doug Parsons and Beau Bamberg.

Tricks like this look-back Kiss of Death earned Ronnie Renner X Games spots in Freestyle and Big Air. Oh, and he qualified in Step-Up, too.
Next up ... Big Air.

The final Big Air qualifier had its share of surprises, and shining like a sharp new samurai sword was Ronnie "Kung Fu" Faisst.

Faisst has shown promise throughout the years but is inconsistent in big comps. This year, Faisst bought five acres of land and built his own practice area. His focus and determination clearly paid off. He has the flip down pat and looks polished and comfortable.

Faisst wasn't even on the radar screen in terms of WFA points, ranked 37th with 36 points, a far distance behind series leader Dayne Kinnaird with 188 points. But Faisst's clean, perfectly executed backflip outscored his fellow flippers and won him the event and a ticket to X.

Kinnaird was a lock to take the 2003 WFA Big Air title, but wrecked on a backflip during practice. He was uninjured, but too sore to ride. His absence opened the door for Kenny Bartram to come from third place behind Kinnaird and Renner and win the 2003 WFA Big Air title.

The next five athletes in WFA points who qualified for the X Games are Bartram, Kinnaird, Renner, Parsons and Chuck Carothers, who bumped 2002 X Games bronze medallist Drake McElroy out this year's Games.

Matt Buyten beat out Ryan "Fluffer" Hagy for the final Freestyle spot in L.A.
And finally ... Freestyle.

In 90 seconds, Mike Metzger set a bar that has yet to be topped after a full year of backflip mania. Many have taken on the flip, by no other rider has executed a flip over a 75-foot. dirt-to-dirt gap, switching gears in mid air (not to mention that he went into it coming off another flip).

Metz's accomplishment fueled many to add the flip to their freestyle routine, and the guy with the most to win and the most to lose in this battle is Brian Deegan. Brian disses the ramp kids and claims the freestyle course as his home, but after making it to the X Games, he's had difficulty making it to the Freestyle Final.

Deegan went into Randall's island in eighth place in the WFA standings. He started the day with a wreck when he forgot to click into first gear and hit the ramp in second going into a flip. He was sore and it showed, but not being one to give in, Deeg nailed the flips in his final run and had a solid enough performance to earn enough points for a spot in L.A.

The shocker of the event was Dustin Miller. Making his WFA series debut, Dustin came with technical tricks like a huge no-handed superman and finished in third place, ahead of Deegan and Faisst.

Nate Adams was smooth and solid and landed in second place, but the big win went to Kenny Bartram. A professed hater of the flip, he manages to use it when he needs it and make sure it pays off. Kenny not only took the event, but is also the 2003 WFA Freestyle Champion.

Advancing to the X Games from Randall's Island are Beau Bamburg, Myles Richmond, Doug Parsons, Ronnie Renner, Brian Deegan, Dayne Kinnaird and Matt Buyten. Finishing out the Moto-X drama, Matt Buyten and Ryan "Fluffer" Hagy were tied in points and were last on the bubble to make it into X from points. The ticket to X went to Buyten as the last rider to take an event win.

For a complete list of qualified riders, click here.

For more news from freestyle's biggest online community, visit www.freestylemtx.com.