Cody Cousino / Photo editor
Amid cheering fans and booming crashes, the Schottenstein Center was filled with a different type of champion Saturday, much different than the Buckeye basketball players who normally rule the court.
The final leg of the Monster Truck National tour crashed through campus, filling the Schott with crowds of families and some Ohio State students looking for a new experience.
The show, one of the largest in the country, brought six competing trucks that went head-to-head in four categories. In the wheelie, donut and racing categories, drivers competed for points awarded by a panel of judges.
The winner of the freestyle competition, where the drivers are free to show their chosen skills, including jumping, crushing and driving backward, was judged by crowd response. In the end, E3 Spark Plugs Bigfoot, driven by Rick Long, took home the freestyle trophy. Long was also the winner of the racing portion.
“The freestyle is my favorite, when the trucks get wild and crazy and do whatever they want,” said Emily Boden, marketing manager for Family Events, the producer of Monster Truck Nationals. “They don’t have to do anything specific. It gets crazy.”
Though the show was a competition, MTN brought more than monster trucks for the audience’s pleasure. Also making appearances were rising country star Jason Sturgeon, who joined the drivers for a pre-show concert, and Transaurus, a car-crushing, fire-breathing halftime show.
Also appearing for an eight-lap race were Kid KJ and his team of Lil’ Mighty Monsters. The three-kid team, made up of brothers Kaid Jaret, 8, and Jake Royce, 7, Olson-Weston and friend Cassie Berry, 14, is the world’s youngest monster truck team.
Kaid Jaret, who also goes by Kid KJ, started driving monster trucks when he was 3 years old.
“He went to a show and said, ‘I want a monster truck.’ So his dad bought him a go-cart, but that wasn’t good enough.” Boden said. “‘Dad, that’s not a real one,’ he said. So, lucky for Kid KJ and Jake and Cassie, they were able to find someone that custom builds these trucks for them.”
Before suiting up and getting behind the wheel, the kids had to attend a school where they learned the driving skills and mechanics for their half-scale monster trucks.
“They’re driving in a controlled environment, or as controlled as you may want to say it is,” Boden said. “They understand the ins and outs of a truck better than you or I would. They’re very knowledgeable and they do it every weekend, so they get a lot of practice.”
Despite the Schottenstein Center’s basketball court-sized floor space, fitting five 10,000-pound monster trucks, three half-scale mini monsters and 10 cars used for demolishing was no feat for the MTN crew, said Bridgett Warner, who came to the event with her coworkers from the Limited Brands.
“I was curious about how they were going to do it because it’s such a small space,” Warner said. “I thought the space was going to be a lot bigger, so I was surprised they were able to get enough speed to get over the cars.”
Other winners included wheelie champion Lucas Oil Stabilizer, driven by Bobby Holman, and Star Marshal, driven by Dave Radzierez, who took home the best donut title.
Some OSU students said they enjoyed the show.
“I had never been to a monster truck show before,” said Dawn Call, a fifth-year in photography. “We saw this on Ticketmaster and decided it would be really fun to go to.”
Although on a college campus, Boden said the event was aimed toward families and children.
“With Monster Truck Nationals, this is a family event,” Boden said. “We provide an up-close experience where you can, literally, get up to the trucks. It’s all about the kids, and that’s why we all enjoy it, because we’re all kids at heart.”