Onewheel Racing League (ORL) hosted its Western Regional Qualifier on July 9 and 10, 2022 at Lake Cunningham, San Jose, CA. This was the first of two qualifying events for this year’s Race for the Rail to be held on August 20 and 21, 2022. The top four men and top four women from each qualifier will proceed to Race for the Rail, in addition to last year’s champions and selected contenders from the official ORL rankings list.
The ORL Western Qualifier took place on a downhill dual slalom track that offered plenty of pumps, whoops, and fast berms… and also plenty of dust. Organizers could be seen spraying water over the course to tamp it down. The competition was fast-paced, with each run taking less than a minute to complete. Racers had to ride both sides of the course for each heat, with the lowest cumulative time proceeding to the next bracket.
Winners of this season’s pre-qualifying events seeded directly into the final bracket. The other slots were determined by time trials on Saturday, July 9: A fierce and dusty competition attended by over 100 hopeful riders.
Watch: ORL Western Qualifier Highlights
Neil Bennett took the gold in the men’s category, besting Jeff Adair in the final bracket of the Western Qualifier. This was an incredible comeback for Bennett, who started the season ranked 8th and slipped all the way down to 16th during this year’s pre-qualifying events. Meanwhile, Adair started the season as a relative unknown with no laurels to rest upon from past seasons. He made his debut into the top 20 at DirtSurferz, climbed into the top 8 at Shredfest, and finally made top 5 at Wheel Scorcher before ultimately winning the Western Qualifier.
Bennett and Adair each earned an invite to Race for the Rail, along with third- and fourth-place contenders Kyle Hanson and Sam Lara. Other finalists included Austen Silva, Bodhi Harrison, Thor Callaghan, and 2021 Race for the Rail champion Tyler James.
In the women’s category, Mercedes Silva defeated Rachel Payne in the final bracket. Both of these women spent a lot of time on the podium this season, with Payne defending her top-five ranking and Silva quickly climbing from top 20 debutante to the number one seed. Gabi Soto and Allison Stanley also earned invitations to Race for the Rail.
These top four women earned their spot at the Western Qualifier by winning previous races during the season. Other competitors were added to the bracket based on time trials on Saturday, July 9. These included Lily Lam, Nicole Watamaniuk, Janet Thorne, and Brenda Bonnell. 2021 Race for the Rail champion Zoe Thomas did not attend.
Next up is the Eastern Regional Qualifier on July 30 and 31 at Kanuga Bike Park in Hendersonville, NC.
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