Iowa Champ Mindy Rathjens Eager for Debut at NTDC
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Less than two months ago, Mindy Rathjens, a FedEx Freight driver, was competing at the Iowa Truck Driving Championships.
En route to her grand champion performance, Rathjens explained that everything about the competition just clicked in her mind as she operated the 3-axle truck at the contest in the Hawkeye State on June 22.
Her maneuvers were crisp. Her focus was sharp. Her confidence was high.
As she explained, “I really studied. Oh, boy — yeah — I drove that course like, I saw it, and I was like, I’m going to drive every problem one at a time, and just, everything clicked.”
Who: Winners from nine categories at the state level who have advanced to the national competition, where a Grand Champion will be crowned
What: Contestants are judged on a written exam, pre-trip inspection and driving skills
When: Aug. 16-19
Where: Columbus, Ohio
Rathjens also recalled: “I took deep breaths, and I just pictured every problem on the course like I was driving my route. Like a left turn, I had to make sure I didn’t, you know, you don’t hit the curve.
“I was visualizing my tire going across the pad where it’s supposed to. It was just like everything; like my pre-trip and my verbal interview and the time that I took to study for it.”
Rathjens’ state-level victory secured her first trip to American Trucking Associations’ National Truck Driving Championships and National Step Van Driving Championships. When she competes at the 86th annual “Super Bowl of Safety,” starting Aug. 16 in Columbus, Ohio, her goal is to continue to have things “click.” The tournament’s three challenges — written exam, pre-trip vehicle inspection and precision driving course — merit plenty of mental and physical “clicks.”
Getting to Know You
Name: Mindy Rathjens
Company: FedEx Freight
Favorite food: Pizza (taco pizza)
Last movie you watched: “An Officer and a Gentleman”
Sports Hero: Iowa college basketball superstar Caitlin Clark
What is the last song you heard: “Watermelon Moonshine” by Lainey Wilson
All-time favorite vacation: “I don’t have to go anywhere fancy. Just hanging out with my friends and family.”
What is something people don’t know about you: “I like to demolition derby.”
As she prepares to make her debut at the national stage, Rathjens is determined to demonstrate to colleagues and peers that she belongs with the best of the best. Since her Iowa triumph, she has been devoting time and energy practicing for nationals. “Every time I get into the yard,” she explained, “I will actually do parallel parking, and I do my left turns and my right turns.”
She doesn’t use cones during her practice routine. As she puts it, “I use our curve, and where the concrete and asphalt meet for parallel parking. I’ll use them two as a guide.”
At nationals, Rathjens will be among 10 women competing in the nine vehicle classes. To be among the 10 female qualifiers this year is thrilling, she said. The group includes 2013’s tanker division national winner Ina Daly of Arizona with XPO.
“I love it,” Rathjens said. “I love that the women are wanting to do it. We just need to get more to do it.”
4-Axle: Jerry Beckman, Walmart
5-Axle: John Egli, Old Dominion Freight Line
Flatbed: Joshua Anderson, XPO
Sleeper Berth: Willie Lambrix Jr., Green Products Co.
Step Van: Competiton not held
Straight Truck: Richard Barre, XPO
Tank Truck: Walter Freeman, Solar Transport
Twins: Steven Iburg, XPO
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