Driven by competition

Jakobi wins national pedal pulling championship

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GRANTON, Wis. — Power, speed and the thrill of accomplishment are what drive 12-year-old Kelcy Jakobi. Since the age of 4, the Clark County youth has found all those things while competing in pedal tractor pulling.

“It makes you stronger,” Kelcy said. “I like working hard, trying to do better every time.”

For her efforts, Kelcy is a national champion pedal puller. In September, she won her final pedal pulling title at the National Kids Pedal Pull held at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota, topping the 11-year-old girls division when she pulled 660 pounds over a distance of 29 feet. Her winning pull was over 6 feet longer than her nearest competitor. The field in her age group started with 27 pullers.

“It was the first time this year that I didn’t make a full pull,” Kelcy said.

A full pull is usually considered to be 45-50 feet, depending on who is running the pull. 

“They said, ‘We finally stopped her,’” Kelcy said.

A sixth grader at Loyal Middle School, Kelcy lives on her family’s 75-cow dairy farm near Granton with her parents, Denny and Tracy; brothers, Brandon and Isaac; and sister, Mallory.

Like many children who grow up the youngest in their family, Kelcy was initiated into the sport of pedal pulling by watching her older siblings compete. The family came to pedal pulling naturally. Denny is an avid tractor puller himself, making pedal pulling a natural extension for his family.

Competing at the highest level is nothing new to Kelcy. Her first year competing, as a 4-year-old, Kelcy qualified for the national contest and pedaled her way to a second-place finish.

“I have made it to nationals every year and have placed in the top three every time except two,” Kelcy said.

The path to qualifying for the national pedal pulling championships starts with participating at the local level in a sanctioned pedal pull, earning a top-three finish to qualify for the state contest, which is held each year in early September. At the state contest, the top four finishers in each age division earn the opportunity to head to the Corn Palace with the prospect of coming home a national champion.

Denny said that, at the local contests, boys and girls compete against each other, but at the state and national contests, each gender has its own division.

“The weights go up the older the kids get,” Denny said. “They start out with maybe 30 or 40 pounds for the 4-year-olds and get progressively heavier.”

Kelcy regularly competes in several local pulls, including those held annually at the Loyal Corn Fest and the Clark County Fair, and the family often travels to other sanctioned pedal pulls held in the area.

“We hosted the Granton Dairy Breakfast in 2015 and had a sanctioned pedal pull as part of the activities,” Denny said. “That was Kelcy’s first pedal pull.”

One of the aspects of the sport of pedal pulling the Jakobi family enjoys most is the relationships that they have built with the people who organize and run the pulls, as well as the other families and competitors they have met.

“I have pulled against a lot of the same kids over the years; you get to know them, and that is pretty neat,” Kelcy said. “We also see the people who run the pulls a lot, and they know me, and that sometimes makes it more fun too.”

While she is eligible to compete on the local level next year, Kelcy’s reign as a top-ranking national pedal puller must come to an end.

“They go by your age on the day of the contest, and next year my birthday is two days before, so I’ll be too old,” Kelcy said.

A family wedding will preclude her from participating in next year’s state pull as well.  

Growing up the youngest of four kids helped foster a competitive nature in Kelcy, and that is where she said her determination to be the best at whatever task or activity she takes on comes from. Kelcy works hard throughout the year to prepare for her pulling season.

“I ride my bike up the hill from the farm every day,” Kelcy said. “I actually pretty much wear out a bike every single year.”

Kelcy said riding her bike helps build both her leg muscles and her endurance. She lamented that her worst performance at the national contest found her placing 10th. She said that was the year she learned how to drive a utility vehicle, and her bike riding time decreased.

“I didn’t like placing that low,” Kelcy said. “I learned my lesson; you don’t build your leg muscles driving the gator. I started riding my bike again.”

The best advice Kelcy said she could give an up-and-coming pedal puller would be to put the work in to build strength.

“You need to be able to start out hard and fast and build momentum, and keep your elbows up and your knees up,” Kelcy said. “It really does take a lot of practice at home.”

While she is nearing the end of her pedal pulling career, she said she will continue to find avenues to be competitive, including the sport of lawnmower pulling and competing as a three-season athlete, playing softball, volleyball and basketball.

“I’m going to keep riding my bike, getting stronger and keep playing sports,” Kelcy said. “Those are the things that make me happy.”

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