Ohio’s own JP Ratajczak, the first Overall Champion and 2012 2nd Place Overall
JP may be the most decorated ELLT athlete, certainly the only one with 1st and 2nd place overall medals. Every year, though, the questions remain — can he repeat? Will fatherhood slow him down? Can he ever actually play golf?
- Age…one of the youngest and closer in age to some of the Young Liars than the other racers
- Mad skillz…at hoops and climbing and soccer
- Dad-strength. Previously, JP got by on the first two strengths, but now that he is a father, he’ll be able to tap into the well of strength and conditioning that comes from being a dad
- Excellent taste in country music and perhaps the most eclectic tastes after Mr. Chris Doyle. Given the need for post-race balance between Marshall’s Maiden, Gary’s Boss, Lapham’s American Idol, and Schukraft’s Kraftwerk, being able to DJ well is a skill and a strength
- The colors blue and gold together paralyze him. Three previous weaknesses — age, fatherhood, and concussion-induced wobbliness — are all non-factors now as expectations are gone for 2013, fatherhood clearly didn’t slow JP down, and he seems to be healed of his injuries.
In 2008, JP was the only climber who came close to reaching the top on the toughest rope at Rumney. His golf game sucked, but we played in Canada that year, so his score was worth .27 more (due to the exchange rate at the time). He biked well and then pulled off one of the most surprising accomplishments in ELLT history — he got Steve Ball to play basketball well. JP won the overall trophy and then followed up the victory with a Stanley Cup-like photo session, setting the bar for every champion who follows.In 2009, with expectations six miles high, JP medaled only in rock climbing (2nd), being one of only two guys to actually use the pink triangle to full effect (that is not what it sounds like). 2010 was the Year of First Losers, as JP tied with Eric Lapham for second place in both rock climbing and mountain biking, where JP had a far better year than the two previous races. For the second straight year, high expectations kept JP off the overall podium. In 2011, JP set the bar for exceptional soccer performance at a level that is unlikely to ever be overcome (if you haven’t seen this in a while, watch it again, but make sure you mute the sound first). JP was then the third of only three climbers who managed to conquer Ben Moeling’s spiderman route, bringing him another rock climbing medal. JP’s golf game sucked and he came in 9th in the mountain biking time trial, but his teammates (Gary and Otto) carried him to a second place finish in hoops. Overall, a very good year, but just shy of an overall podium finish.
Facing high expectations in 2012, JP delivered. On the rocks, JP climbed a 5.10a…yes, a legit 5.10a….that’s like a non-baseball player stepping into the batter’s box and knocking out a double off the Wall on a 92 mph fasteball. Mad skillz, indeed. JP’s golf game was unremarkable, but on the bikes, he came in 4th in the time trial and 3rd in the final MB standings, with a time trial time ride under 5 minutes (one of only 6 riders to do so). And in basketball, JP was on the losing side of an epic 15-14 final game that included at least a dozen game winning shots that missed for both teams. Absolutely brutal tough loss…and it was probably that 2nd place finish in hoops that kept him from being the first repeat champion in the ELLT.
Expectations for 2013
He has been training. He has a track record of improving at every event, year after year. He is making a mid-June visit to Newbury to acclimate to the altitude, pay respects to The Commissioner, and scout the biking and possibly golf courses. Without the burden of expectations, its hard to see what would keep him off the overall podium…and back in 1st.