POTTSTOWN — There were friends, family, familiar faces.
Others she hadn’t seen in a long time, some she had never seen before.
They all came to Trilogy Park BMX Track in Pottstown on Monday night with the same intention — wish Payton Ridenour good luck.
Ridenour, a first-time Olympian for the United States BMX Racing team, returned to her hometown track Monday for a final sendoff before heading to Tokyo for the Olympic Games on Wednesday.
“Thank you to everyone who came out today,” said Ridenour, a 19-year-old Pottstown native and 2020 Owen J. Roberts graduate. “It’s awesome to see how many people are here and being supportive. I definitely didn’t expect that many people.”
Ridenour’s father Keith is a longtime rider at Trilogy Park, which opened in 2004. Payton joined him on the track around age 5 and never put down her bike.
Track operators Glen and Cathy Knapper have watched Payton grow into an Olympian at Trilogy over the years.
Along with the Pottstown Borough Parks & Rec Department, the Knappers wanted to make sure those in the area had the opportunity to show Payton how much her accomplishments mean with Monday’s event.
“To have somebody who grew up at the track with the accomplishments she did it’s just a good feeling,” Glen Knapper said. “For the kids around here — not as much lately — they see her all the time, so to them, it’s just Payton. But it’s actually nice that they’re here to support her and send her off on a good note. … The track was here. But her hard work put her there.”
Throughout the night, Ridenour took pictures in front of her bike and signed autographs for those who came out to greet her.
She took a brief pause when Glen Knapper, Pottstown Park & Rec Drector Michael Lenhart, Fifth Ward Council President Dan Weand, Mayor Stephanie Henrick and state Rep. Joe Ciresi addressed those in attendance Monday to congratulate Ridenour on her accomplishments.
“This was really important to us in Pottstown to send Payton off and let Payton know we were behind her,” Lenhart said to the crowd.
The track at Trilogy was packed with young racers on Monday night, many of whom knew Ridenour from her time there. In between laps, some waited in line for an autograph and a picture with the local BMX star.
Birdsboro native Joe Speyerer rode away from Ridenour’s table with an autographed bike after telling her to “Race Fast!” at the Olympics.
Another young local rider Oliver Kosmalski of Malvern got a copy of Ridenour’s book ‘A to Z: BMX Style’ autographed by the author after wishing her good luck.
“I’ve seen her quite a bit riding the races,” Kosmalski said. “It’s very cool. … I said, ‘Good luck and have fun.’ … It’s the biggest you can go right, all the way to the Olympics.”
“It’s a local track, we come here all the time, and we never really understood we were in the presence of something like that,” father Peter Kosmalski added. “It’s pretty cool, a lot of fun.”
Many others from Ridenour’s journey to the Olympics stopped by to wish her good luck.
Green Lane resident Mike Kuzmission, who rode with Keith and Payton early in her racing career, showed up wearing his Evil Endustries jersey from the first racing team that Ridenour started.
While following her career, Kuzmission said he’s been amazed but not surprised by what Ridenour has accomplished.
“Just from seeing her as a kid, the writing was pretty much on the wall with her,” Kuzmission said. “She’s super talented in the way she progressed and how quickly she progressed it was really cool to see. It was cool to be a part of it and watch it.”
Ridenour’s first sponsor Jinny Politz, the owner and founder of BikeSport in Trappe, was also there to support Ridenour before her trip to the Olympics.
“It’s a little overwhelming because these little kids out there, that was Payton,” Politz said, pointing to the kids riding on the track at Trilogy on Monday night. “This place is amazing and what it offers for kids who wouldn’t have opportunities. There’s not that many places where they can compete.”
As he scanned the crowd Monday night, Keith Ridenour noted that many of those who stopped in on Monday played an important role in helping his daughter to the peak of her sport.
“If you want to be exceptional, you should be around exceptional people, and she’s been around exceptional people her whole life,” Keith Ridenour said.
That fact is not lost on Payton who made sure to thank all of those there Monday before setting off to reach for even greater heights in Tokyo.
“It started when my dad took me to the BMX track when I was five,” Payton said. “Thanks to the Knappers for having the track and everyone who’s volunteered throughout the year to help me achieve my dreams. It wouldn’t be possible without them and everyone else in my corner.”