Ironically, one element of our community which is often overlooked and taken for granted is the actual racing. While HT has officially endorsed it's own content creators and given them the proper recognition they deserve (with many more to go), it's time to turn the spotlight over to the scene of the Halo racing tournaments. This edition of Community Spotlight is about the highly decorated and overwhelmingly successful Halo racer, Dominic Kolenda. He holds many different aliases, but he is widely known throughout the community as Sodapop. Hailing from Michigan with a background in motocross racing, Soda has won every major tournament and championship that HT has to offer. He holds major titles across every Halo game HT has had tournaments for. His prestige aside, Soda is a humble mentor for his piers and an ambassador to the entire racing community. We caught up with Sodapop for an interview which has been a long time coming.
Formally Introduce yourself.
My name is Dominick "Soda" Kolenda. I just turned 20 and no longer a teen sadly but also a good thing of course. I've been at the same occupation for the past 15 months, (Discount Tire Tech) and still remains to be my first job. At this point in my life I'm not quite sure of what I want to do for my career yet but I'm sure I'll find it.
One thing I'm trying to get more serious about is bodybuilding. I'm 6ft and 135lbs. I used to be 6ft 124lbs just a few months ago. Even now I get comments every single day about how skinny I am. At work, at home, at party's, so that's motivation in itself for me to go to the gym. I've learned that it's not just going to the gym though it takes a full life commitment. You're food has to be right and for me I need LOTS of it; which isn't easy working a 10 hour shift job. You need 8-9 hours of sleep every single night because that's when you're body grows. My goal is to reach 185lbs and maintain it when I get there I don't wanna become too big.
What attracted you to Halo racing and what got you started with HT?
Through the internet. I watched YouTube videos of Rogue and Dream and all the guys that made the incredible SkyTracks back in 2009. Initially that's how I discovered the website and at that time I wasn't too interested. I didn't talk to anyone I just downloaded the tracks and raced on them for a few weeks and left. I didn't come back for at least 18 months.
In October of 2011, (beginnning of Halo Reach) I was playing around in Forge with some buddies from school. Out of all the random things we forged one of those things just happened to be a jump, and that little jump turned into a racetrack, a really bad racetrack.
My passion with Halo racing started here. I continued racing on the track me and my friends made for about a month until I finally remembered about HaloTracks. I downloaded Ionized's tracks and Purple's tracks primarily. I remember how excited I was racing on them for the first time. I was like a little kid opening a Christmas present with each new track I raced on. Even racing alone I had a deep level of passion and excitement. I truly loved it.
You struck gold when you started competing in big racing tournaments; did you ever see yourself finding so much success?
When I started racing I didn't have any expectations for myself but to only have fun. My first official tournament race was an HT Supercross event on Purpledinosaur0's Tundra MX. I won the first Moto and finished 7th in the second Moto. Next race was on Everglade MX by Ionized and I actually ended up going 1-1 for that race; towards the end I remember Camo saying, "you're killin' it man, good job". I have an extreme amount of love for racing. With this single win the game actually whispered to me "I love you too Soda" and my eyes rolled into the back of my head. She was mine and only one person can have her and I actually seen myself finding success very early after that, I believed in my victory. Before the Best of Halo: Reach I knew I could do it but I never overlooked anyone. I knew anything could happen and my competitors are strong and I think this mindset is healthy.
You're among a select few members on the website who are or were involved in motorsports outside of video games. Do you feel that experience transitions and benefits you when race in tournaments?
I think growing up around racing in real life gives you an eye for things others may not have.
Soda entered the competitive Halo racing scene in 2011, during the time of Halo: Reach and HT Supercross Season 3. He quickly turned heads in the game by not only nearly winning his HTSX debut, but his first ever tournament. From there, he would go on to be the unofficial HTSX Season 3 Champion. He's continued his reign of dominance across Halo: Reach, Halo 4 and even Halo 3. For more information, Soda's official racing stats can be found in the unofficial racer stats database.
Could you elaborate on your previous answer?
If I were to watch basketball my whole life and try to race, it may take me longer to learn how to race, (if I were to even find racing interesting). I was brought up to ride. My whole family watched the races so I ended up watching them too. I'm sure my interest would be much different if my family were huge football fans and watched that instead. Growing up racing you're mind gets wraped around it so it comes easier to you.
What are your thoughts on the current state of tournaments and the future of Halo racing?
We're very inactive and tournaments aren't there. This has been an on-going trend for quite some time now. The core people of the community are still here which is a good thing; great forgers, racers, and leaders of the site. I feel like its important to have strong leadership for the website when it's in a dark place and luckily we have it.
The future of Halo racing relies heavily on 5.0 releasing. We need a strong change and the new website is the only answer to that. Players that have been here through thick and thin, (like myself) need to step up and take leadership of hosting tournaments. Forgers need to forge more innovative tracks and release consistently for the excitement to be there. It seems we have to much conflict between one another and are unable to accomplish the things we want because of it. I think we'll figure it out.
Where do you see yourself in the future of HT and what are your plans for Halo racing in general?
The future is uncertain for me. I got so much goin' on I'm not really focused on the site at the moment. I'm turning into a young man so there's quite a bit of learning I gotta do for me and the family at this time. I wanna get back into the scene once I get my schedule cleared.
My plans for when I'm not so busy are to host tournaments. I'm not a forger and H5's forge is pretty challenging, so racing and managing is the route for me. I like to think I can give good ideas and suggestions to the leaders of the site.
With his busy schedule and the recent tournament drought, it's been a while since we've seen Soda at the races. However, he did recently return to the scene for two rounds of the '2016 Nationals Open Series', where he posted perfect 1-1 scores in each round.
Which game presented the most challenges for you as a racer and which was the most difficult to master?
Halo 3 to Reach was a much different mongoose, and Reach to Halo 4 was a much different mongoose. I began racing in Reach so I never experienced the first change. I did however experience the second one and it was tough. I remember blh728 made his first Supercross track and him and Mythic, (xPA32x) were faster than me. So I concentrated a lil' more and I was still slower. It took some time but luckily HT Supercross needs to wait for high quality tracks before a season begins, so that granted me the time. To conclude, Halo 4 was the most challenging game to master.
Who has been your toughest competition?
There are a lot of legendary racers out there. First that come to mind are Le Hefe, Camonized, and Hatter is Mad just to name a few. Me and Le Hefe had intense battles back on Halo: Reach. The one that stands out the most was a race on Overlook SX. We traded positions for first place throughout the entire race until he passed me on the last lap to take the win, (I know you still remember Jeff lol). Le Hefe was the reigning champion of HTSX during these races. I felt the weight of his determination and skill more than anyone else on the racetrack.
My all time greatest competitor is Pancake. The fiercest, fastest, and most consistent racer I have ever raced is him. He has a passion for the game and rose to fame very early in the ORL, beating all previous and reigning champions in his rookie season even lapping them and sweeping the Championship finals with 3 wins in 3 races. He is the one and only racer that actually makes me scratch my head at times. You must be laser focused and be operating at every ounce of you're mental capacity if you want a chance at beating him.
While Pancake was rising through the ranks in the ORL, about 2 years prior I was rising through the ranks on HaloTracks. We both dominated our leagues and came together in the end to demonstrate the most high quality, legendary rivalry the racing community has ever seen.
While his future in Halo racing is ambiguous, Soda's legendary racer status has granted him a place in the community of HT for many years to come. One cannot help but question; will his accolades ever be surpassed, or his records be broken? Either way, it's been one hell of a journey for the Michigan native.
Of all your championships, titles and big tournament victories, which one stands out the most for you?
The one that shines the brightest for me is my Season 7 HTSX title; It was the hardest one to earn. All of the best racers participated in that series besides just a couple. Those racers being Le Hefe, (commentating) and Jake Bobius who we missed as well, (which just happens to be two of the three previous champions of the squad). I actually just now realized that. It was still the toughest I've had to fight for a title. When you go back and watch the streams my interviews are so quiet however my mind was peaked like I was on crack or something. That may have been the sort of delusional quality that you have to have to accomplish extremely challenging goals even in real life. How are you supposed to make it through high pressured situations without being a little insane?
To wrap things up, what advice can you offer to newer racers, or general racers who want to be better at racing?
To new racers its all about practice. Try to watch the races on YouTube as much as possible. In the HT Supercross streams Jeff makes a lot points and explains how racers use their strategies to overcome adversity. Try to race in as many tournaments as possible to get the experience. For me personally, I love racing and that's my core motivator. I have so much fun racing. Find what motivates you.
Interview and article composed by @Camonized
Screenshots provided by @xEasyTargetx