Biking high over hills

High Springs track draws BMX riders for miles


Published: Monday, March 1, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 1, 2004 at 12:09 a.m.

About 20 years ago, Mike Smith began BMX bicycle racing when his kids became interested in the sport. After some time away, Smith started racing again three years ago, this time with his grandchildren.

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A biker goes airborne at the grand opening of the BMX track in High Springs on Sunday.

LEE FERINDEN/Special to The Sun

"It keeps you in shape and . . . it's a big family thing," said Smith, 53, of Macclenny. "When your kids come out and get started, if they continue, it becomes a big part of the family's life."

Smith and bikers, who ranged from adults to children as young as 5, came to High Springs from across the state on Sunday to ride at the grand opening of the BMX track here. Riders have been using the track, which was built by volunteers, since last month, but the event drew the largest crowd to use it so far.

"We had an excellent turnout because we had over 100 riders," track official Danielle Luecke said.

As they waited for racing to begin, participants pushed their bikes up a steep ramp to take practice runs. Riders pumped their legs furiously as some worked just to make it through the series of hills, valleys and turns. Others easily navigated the track, twisting and turning in midair with their bikes.

Watching other BMX riders was what got Michael Haring interested in the sport. Michael, 10, of Gainesville, decided to begin racing after he watched some riders use the track when it first opened.

"I wanted to try it and it was really fun," said Haring, who likes jumping best because "it's just fun to feel how you fly through the air."

Riders are grouped by age and experience level. The High Springs track operates under the auspices of the National Bicycle Leagues (NBL), which sanctions the races held there.

On Sunday, riders came from as far away as Jacksonville, St. Petersburg and Cape Coral, which is typical for the sport, according to Tim Mays, assistant commissioner for the Florida NBL.

"My kids have been in for eight years, and I travel to St. Petersburg, to here, to Orlando, to Sarasota just to keep them on the trails," he said, adding that state championship races can attract as many as 1,000 riders.

"Higher, longer and more stretched out," was how Mike Hirsch, 13, of Palm Harbor described the High Springs track when compared to others he has used.

Hirsch came to High Springs on Sunday with his neighbor, Taylor Coleman, also 13. When asked his favorite thing about BMX racing, Hirsch said "the adrenaline rush, the thrill of winning."

Coleman, who often races against him, jokingly added, "I get the thrill of second place every time."

Rachel Kipp can be reached at (352) 374-5086 or kippr@gvillesun.com.

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