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BMX Racer Got His Start On Backyard Trails

Posted in: Front Page Stories, Falmouth News
Aug 26, 2008 - 3:44:08 PM

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FALMOUTH- A few years ago, a cart path that leads from Sheila B. Jarjoura’s Harriette Road home onto Locustfield Road was non-existent, filled with weeds, sticks, and stones.
And then her son Jonathon, 9, began riding his bicycle across it. His destination was a neighbor’s property, where dirt trails meet with power lines and a haphazard jumble of bushes and shrubs.
He has been riding there usually once a week, sometimes with friends Emmett Bleiler, 11, a sixth grader at the Morse Pond School, and Jackson Bleiler, 7, a second grader at the Mullen-Hall School, whose parents, Dr. J. Keith and Monica E. Bleiler, own the land on which the makeshift track lies.
Since those first rides, Jonathon began to blaze his own trails as a competitor, not in his neighborhood, but in Cape Cod BMX racing.
He started competing last year, Ms. Jarjoura said, when Dr. Bleiler offered to take him to Otis Air National Guard Base with his two sons. It is there that BMX races are held every Tuesday throughout the summer and Saturdays during the fall.
Jonathon, who has been bicycling since he was 5, lost that first race, which he described as a nerve-wracking experience. The worst part, he said, was waiting in the starter’s gate for the race to begin. Perched on his Redline bicycle, he peered down at a steep incline, the first of several obstacles, that are placed on the 1,300-foot, quarter-mile track.
The track is one of three in the state that are sanctioned by the American Bicycle Association; Billerica and Westfield host the others.
Like all others who compete and practice at the local course, Jonathon is required to be a member of the ABA at a cost of $35 per year. He pays an additional $10 per race and has the option to practice at the track, at a cost of $5 per session on Fridays during the summer and Tuesdays during the fall. But for the most part, Jonathon prefers using the Bleilers’ course to hone his skills.
As with any new hobby, Jonathon experienced a learning curve as he competed in the novice division against those his age and younger. He raced six times, his mother said, not placing in any of the competitions.
This year his fortunes have changed considerably, and he has won four first-place trophies and a first-place certificate in the “Race for Life,” a charity event for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. He has roughly 12 races remaining this season, including one he might compete in tonight: Ugly Trophy Night.
His goal is to continue his success, he said, while improving his skills. He will soon jump to the next level, intermediate, because of his birthday in the next few weeks. Then he will be tested against more accomplished local racers.
While Jonathon certainly enjoys winning, his mother said the thrill of accomplishing a goal on his own is also a unique feeling. “Because it is not a team sport, I feel that he gets a rewarding feeling from it,” she said. “He has never gone to BMX camp, where they showed him how to race. He picked this up on his own and he gets a lot of pride out of that.”
In addition to BMX racing, Jonathon is also a Cub Scout in Pack 43 at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church and plays soccer and baseball. Of all his activities, he said, “racing is my favorite thing to do.”
As to why, he said, “I just like to go out and do jumps in the air.” Among the tricks he can do are tail whips, turn downs, no footers, and one footers. These are all tricks that are not allowed during races, he said, but he enjoys practicing.
In-between questions during yesterday’s interview, which he conducted from his bicycle in his back yard, he dodged pine trees, while occasionally popping wheelies and jumping his entire bicycle over small mounds of dirt.
While racing, his mother said, he has only had one accident, but he quickly returned to his bicycle. When asked if he is ever scared of hurting himself, he shakes his head. “He is fearless,” his mother added.
Although there are inherent dangers to the sport, Jonathon wears a Fox dirt bike helmet, racing pants, and gloves as well as a long-sleeved shirt. Ms. Jarjoura admits that other children have fallen from their bicycles during races, but there have never been severe injuries.
“If somebody falls, other parents will go on the track to help that kid out,” she said.
It is somewhat contrary to the solitary nature of the sport, yet, with BMX racing, she said, the highlight as a parent is that “it is not that competitive. You would think in a sport that is one-on-one, it would be that type of deal, but it is not like that. All the other parents root for the other children, and I root for them as well. I just like the fact that everyone gets along and no parent is saying, ‘My kid is better than yours.’ ”
In a sport that is slowly becoming mainstream—it was featured as an Olympic event for the first time ever in Beijing—it is this fellowship that Jonathon enjoys as well.
And he is doing his part to recruit others, having petitioned his friend Tyler Bergstrom, a fellow fourth grader at the Mullen-Hall School to join him. His reason has nothing to do with helping the sport to flourish in Falmouth, but for more mundane reasons. “I don’t know many people who do these races,” he said, hinting that having a friend join him on this journey would make for a better ride.