Black Key Bulls Runs Away With Men’s Little 500 Title

For about 170 laps or so of the 67th Men’s Little 500 nobody seamed overly eager to make a winning move.

The pace was slowed by multiple cautions. The pack was about 14 teams deep. Everyone seemed content at just riding things out to set the table for what could have been one of the largest sprints the race has seen.

Then Black Key Bulls said enough. Someone had to make a move, so it might as well have been “The People’s Champs.”

“Why would you not try?” said Charlie Hammon post race

BKB broke away from the field with about 25 laps to go and built a straightaway’s worth of lead it never gave up in similar fashion to Kappa Alpha Theta the day before. The common thread between the women’s and men’s champion? Coach Ryan Knapp, who is believed to be the first coach to ever win both races in the same year.

“We were just watching each other waiting for someone to make a move,” BKB rider Kevin Mangel said. “When it happened, it happened.”

Black Key Bulls, from eighth starting spot, won in just less than two hours and 14 minutes time ahead of Gray Goat and Cutters. The two teams on the lower steps of the podium attempted to bridge the gap together late but ultimately didn’t have enough legs to catch up.

“Nobody was pulling through,” Gray Goat rider Thomas Torbik said. “Nobody really wanted to do a lot of the work, and I think that was because there wasn’t really anybody super favored to win the race. I think everyone saved, and nobody took full advantage until the end.”

 

Gray Goat was one of the pleasant surprises of the race, having moved from 15th starting spot to second. The veteran team featured 11 races of experience.

“I’m just so proud of this team,” Torbik said. “We knew that (BKB) was going to have a decent shot either way if they went for a sprint or pulled out like they did. We just couldn’t hold their wheel for very long.”

BKB’s move was planned well before the start of the race. Hammon said there was a threshold number that they were eying to pounce at and ultimately liked what they saw from the other teams when they made their move.

What helped was that the pack was as bunched together as it was. Loose cinders in Turns 3 and 4 sparked a handful of crashes and stymied any chance of a few teams working together to break into a smaller pack.

That was fine by BKB. Sprint or no sprint, the trophy is still the same.

“There’s no words to describe what it feels like to get that win for them, that win for us,” Hammon said. “It’s a special group.”

The championship is Black Key Bulls’ second in four years. They previously won after surviving a crash of lead riders coming to the white flag in 2014.

There was less drama this go around.

Same result, though.

“It’s not just us on the bike, it’s everyone on the team,” Mangel said. “Everyone from all the nine riders to the parents, all the friends, all the family. It’s more than just us four that made this championship.”

Unofficial Results:

1. Black Key Bulls

2. Gray Goat

3. Cutters

4. Beta Theta Pi

5. Sigma Alpha Epsilon

6. Bears

7. Sigma Chi

8. Sigma Phi Epsilon

9. Phi Gamma Delta

10. 3PH

11. Forest Cycling

12. Delta Chi

13. Lambda Chi Alpha

14. CSF Cycling

15. Pi Kappa Alpha

16. Kappa Sigma

17. JETBLACH

18. Acacia

19. Pi Lambda Phi

20. Phi Sigma Kappa

21. Delta Sigma Pi

22. Phi Delta Theta

23. Alpha Sigma Phi

24. Sigma Nu

25. Alpha Epsilon Pi

26. Theta Chi

27. Black Ice Cycling

28. Beta Sigma Psi

29. Tau Kappa Epsilon

30. Evans Scholars

31. Young Life Cycling

32. Sigma Pi

33. Sigma Alpha Mu

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Theta Wins Seventh Little 500 Title

Grace Bennett could hear herself making history.

As she made her way through Turn 3 on the 100th lap at Bill Armstrong Stadium with a safe lead that wasn’t going away, public address announcer Chuck Crabb’s voice carried over the noise of the crowd.

“Kappa Alpha Theta,” Crabb said, “Seventh Little 500 championship.”

“That was the last push that I needed there was to hear that,” Bennett said. “It’s kind of unreal. I don’t really know what to say. I can’t really believe it. I can’t believe it.”

Bennett and her Theta teammates broke away from the pack with about 30 laps to go and held off a late effort from Alpha Omicron Pi to win their third Little 500 in the last four years. Delta Gamma finished in third.

“It was a great race,” said Ali Oppel of runner-up finisher Alpha Omicron Pi. “Theta made a move that worked.”

Theta made its winning move with about 30 laps to go when coach Ryan Knapp opted to tell his riders to push the tempo and escape a lead pack of riders that was about 10 teams deep. The theory was that Theta could avoid having to win in a sprint if it could build an insurmountable gap that would die as the race went on.

It wasn’t a planned move, senior Evelyn Malcomb admitted.

In fact, she hated it.

“I already apologized to (Knapp) for questioning it because I was worried it wouldn’t stick,” Malcomb said.

The strategy was rewarded with a comfortable race win and ensuing celebration on the cinder track with Theta fans flooding over the fences to celebrate.

“We knew we had the depth to do something like that,” Bennett said. “We didn’t know exactly when we were going to do it or if the opportunity was even going to present itself, but we saw an opportunity and we went for it and we were just able to hold it all the way.”

Alpha Omicron Pi made Theta sweat it out late, bridging the gap from nearly 18 seconds with about 20 laps to go to a bike length with three left on the board. Ultimately, the second-place finishers used up too much energy trying to get back into the race to make a late enough charge.

Even so, the finish was the best in Alpha Omicron Pi’s program history. Theta may have added to its dominant legacy, but AOPi only continued to add layers to what’s been one of the fastest growing Little 500 teams in either the men’s or women’s fields.

“That’s what I’m most proud of is that we’ve got 10 girls on this team that work so hard,” Oppel said. “We’ve built this so far along since I’ve been here.”

Theta, AOPI, Dee Gee and a handful of other top competitors nearly found themselves out of the running after a crash on lap 35 when the lead pack was making its way around a lapped bike.

Nearly 10 teams wound up on the ground just beyond the start finish line, and chaos ensued. Luckily, for the frontrunners, the damage was limited. Riders quickly got back on their bikes, took off and restored a relatively stable pack just about a dozen laps later.

For the champion Thetas, it was Sydney Keaton who fell, got up, rode a few more laps and then handed the bike off to Malcomb from there. She held her composure the whole way.

“She got up like nobody’s business and took off,” Malcomb said of Keaton.

In a race where so many things can go wrong, Theta handled adversity when it came and pushed the right buttons at the right time. It’s sorta what Theta does.

Seven championships don’t just come by accident.

“It worked,” Malcomb said. “Thank God it did.”

Unofficial results:

  1. Kappa Alpha Theta
  2. Alpha Omicron Pi
  3. Delta Gamma
  4.  Alpha Chi Omega
  5.  Ski
  6.  Melanzana
  7.  Kappa Delta
  8.  Teter
  9.  Phi Mu
  10.  Alpha Gamma Delta
  11. Alpha Xi Delta
  12.  Independent Council
  13. Alpha Sigma Alpha
  14. Theta Phi Alpha
  15. Cru
  16.  Sigma Kappa
  17.  RideOn
  18.  Alpha Delta Pi
  19. Delta Sigma Pi
  20.  Phi Gamma Nu
  21. Delta Zeta
  22.  CSF
  23.  Sweet Potato Club
  24. Kappa Kappa Gamma
  25.  Delta Phi Epsilon
  26. IU Nursing
  27. Camp Kesem
  28. Gamma Phi Beta
  29.  Wing It
  30. Sigma Delta Tau
  31. Alpha Phi
  32.  Alpha Epsilon Phi