Round 3 of the Indiana State BMX Series comes to Columbus on Sunday for the third of nine qualifying rounds.
Registration and practice begin at 11 a.m., and racing starts at 1:40 p.m. just north of the Bartholomew County Fairgrounds and next to Dunn Stadium. Spectators can attend for free.
Among the competitors will be Joey Smith, 15, who will be a sophomore at Columbus East in the fall. He said he has been racing for six years.“
I read an article in the paper, and it looked interesting,” Smith said. “I’ve been hooked on it ever since.”
Also competing will be 48-year-old Lee Baker. He said his age group is ultra-competitive.
“It’s interesting; the most competitive classes are the older aged groups,” said Baker, who is a resident of Ellettsville. “It’s made up of guys who were involved from the beginning. A lot of really top-notch riders. It makes for a very interesting, competitive event.”
The Indiana State BMX Series is a compilation of 10 races nine series races and the state finals throughout Indiana. The previous series races took place in Hobart and Indianapolis.
In each age group, there are proficiencies that divide riders into three groups: novice, intermediate and expert. Smith is in the expert field.
He said he loves the “atmosphere, the people, and the want and will to be better.”
“My biggest goal is to be a future olympian,” he said.
Smith’s family is heavily involved in BMX racing. Smith’s father, Joseph, will announce the race, and his younger brothers — Jonathan, 11, and Jacob, 5 — will race Sunday.
“My little brothers, they’re real good at keeping me motivated,” Smith said.
Jonathan will be racing in the intermediate group, and Jacob will be in the novice group.
Joey Smith took first place at the series race in Indianapolis and qualified for the national event after placing in the top eight in his age group in Nashville, Tenn. It also gave him the opportunity to ride in New Zealand, but he passed.
Right now, his outlook is straightforward.
“My short-term goal is to win this series and to make it to Nationals again next year,” Smith said.
The overall state ranking is determined by a rider’s four best finishes from each of the qualifiers along with their finish at the state finals.
Baker began BMX from 1976 to 1980 before he abruptly stopped.
He was drawn back to the sport by a newly created Facebook account.
“It was Facebook,” Baker said. “My wife started me out on it, and I started to see all of these guys, old friends still racing. I honestly didn’t realize guys my age were still doing it. So I said, ‘What the heck; I’m gonna get back to it.’”
He not only has gotten back into it, he has seen much of the country. In the past 90 days, he has raced in Bakersfield, Calif., and Baltimore.
The final race of the series will take place Sept. 22 in Portage. Though Baker’s goal is to repeat as champion, his return to BMX racing has reinvigorated phases of his life.
“It’s neat to be able to maintain a connection with your youth,” Baker said. “It’s challenging but a lot of fun. It keeps me looking forward to things.”