It’s hard to think of an 11-year-old as a veteran of anything, but Callie Plenert has been a tractor pedal pull champion for well over half of her life.
She scored victories in four area pedal pulls this summer to qualify for the state fair, where she placed third. As a result, Callie and her family will be at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota, on Saturday for the national pedal pull championships.
She’s a veteran of that, too; this will be her third trip to nationals.
“She started this when she was 3,” Robin Plenert, Callie’s mother, said. “They allowed 3-year-olds to race for fun.”
Callie started racing competitively when she was 4, and has qualified for state every year since.
Her brother, Dusten, a Hillsboro High School junior, also was a perennial state qualifier, and Plenert said he was Callie’s inspiration to take up the event.
“She watched him do this at a few fairs, she kind of followed him,” Plenert said. “She saw him get a little trophy in Herington one year and said, ‘I want to do that.’”
Callie’s training regimen isn’t typical of most champion athletes.
“I don’t practice for it at all,” she said.
Pedal pull tractors are built to exert increasing resistance as a rider plows down the track, simulating loads that get heavier with each turn of the pedals.
Callie’s race strategy is straightforward.
“I try to start going fast from the beginning,” she said.
Beginning with Dusten, and now with Callie, pedal pulls also have pulled the Plenert clan together.
“It’s been a fun family thing,” Plenert said. “Usually aunts and uncles and grandparents come along to watch her. Dusten is one of her biggest fans.”
Callie didn’t win any awards in her prior trips to nationals, but that hasn’t dampened her enthusiasm.
“It’s fun to go and see all the different things,” she said.