DePUE — It was a good day to be a member of the Cook family.
The Cooks don’t usually race in DePue, but they made the most of their trip so far this year.
Ralph Cook and his daughter, Tara, each won a national title on a windy first day of the Lake DePue Pro National Championship Boat Races on Friday.
Ralph Cook claimed the crown in the mod 850 Runabout — a new division to DePue this year — while Tara Cook took the title in the OSY 400 Hydro.
“We rarely ever race here,” said Ralph Cook, who is from Utica, Miss. “We race mod division, which runs on gas and they race alcohol. They invited us up here and we drove up for the weekend. It’s fun. Everybody is nice. The town is great.
“It’s the first time up here (winning a title). It’s great.”
Ralph Cook finished second in the first heat but ended up being awarded first place when winner David Jones was disqualified.
Cook went on to win the second and final heat as well.
“(The key was) not getting thrown out of the boat,” Ralph Cook said. “I just had to be real careful, let off and do whatever it took to keep it upright.”
Tara Cook won the first two heats in her division before taking it easy in the final heat and cruising to a third-place finish to win her first-ever title, which led to her being tossed into the lake as is tradition when a driver claims their first championship in DePue.
“It was a good day,” said Tara Cook, who has been racing for 14 years after starting at age 9. “All I had to do was really bang the starts. From there, it was just getting to the first turn first.
“Really (getting the start down) is getting your timing marks right. You get out there and practice before the race starts. That’s all you have to do.”
Tara Cook said she had an advantage with it being windy.
“OSY is a no weight class, so me being a light driver, I had an advantage over the other drivers who weigh more, but the wind was so bad we had to add 50 pounds to the nose of the boat. It is what it is, but it worked out for us.”
While the Cooks are new to winning in DePue, Bradley Dygart is not as he defended his crown in the 125 Runabout.
“It felt good,” said Dygart, who is from Bristol, Ind.. “It was awesome. It’s kind of our class we’ve been racing for a while. We have a lot of good competition in that class, so it’s really cool to come out with the win.”
Dygart said he hasn’t been racing too well in that class so far this season, but the testing earlier in the week helped his team out.
“We have (been racing well), but not in this class, so it’s really cool to come out there when it matters and do well,’ Dygart said. “We had a lot more preparation. The two days of testing during the week really helped because we could test everything we needed to and be fully prepared for the weekend.”
Dygart entered the final heat of his division tied with Mike Werner. Dygart won the last heat, while Werner was unable to finish.
“It was like Game 7 of the NBA Finals,” Dygart said. “It was rough. My main goal was to stay in the boat because it was so rough out. That’s what I did and it helped us win.”
Dygart, who also will race in 175 Hydro, said the wind affected racing.
“Being conservative, staying up on the wheel and making sure your weight is as far forward as possible (is key to driving with the wind),” Dygart said. “You just have to be cautious, watch the water, watch the waves and that’s how you come out clean.”
The wind contributed to multiple crashes during Friday’s action and caused the second half of races to be postponed until today.
Other winners Friday were Kyle Deptula, of Springboro, Ohio, in the C Racing Hydro, and Cooper Thompson, a fifth generation racer from Fort Pierce, Fla., in K-Pro Hydro, which is the division for racers ages 9-17.
Deptula placed third in the first heat, won the second heat and took second in the final heat. Thompson, who is undefeated on the season, won the first two heats before cruising to third place in the final heat.
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.