JACKSONVILLE - Ridgeview High junior Aaron Magruder has been watching his older sister Anna, a senior, take on area harriers in cross country and track for the past two years while he has honed his …
JACKSONVILLE - Ridgeview High junior Aaron Magruder has been watching his older sister Anna, a senior, take on area harriers in cross country and track for the past two years while he has honed his own craft.
At the Jacksonville BMX track, which has been around since the 1970s and is currently the brainchild of track director and race night emcee Chad Grace, two-wheeled high-flyers as young as three years old and as old as 58 years old, attack with fervor the three 180 degree banked turns that encase a quartermile course filled with bumps, jumps and catapulting ramps.
On Fri., June 28, Magruder, who was ranked seventh statewide as an intermediate rider in 2019, ascended to an Expert status rider while at that Jacksonville BMX track off Dunn Avenue. The award for achieving the Expert status was a solo ride on the track with his fellow BMXers and fans in the stands acknowledging the feat. Magruder was listed as top 15 year old in the track leaderboard with 1188 race points accrued with second place a distant 456 points.
"It feels good," said Magruder, sponsored by Crank Outracing and now ranked at 22nd in district racing statewide as an expert. "It's a lot of races and two levels to get to here. It takes about 25 races."
Magruder, on the Friday night, was racing amongst Expert riders from around the state and felt his effort was on par for being the newest guy on the starting block.
"You have to win 10 races to go from level one to level two then 25 to get to the third level which is what I just did tonight," said Magruder. "It's usually a race a week consistently to stay on the path."
As for training, Magruder cited leg presses, squats and arms as key to staying fit on the compressed bike.
"You don't ever actually sit on the seat of the bike on the race course," said Magruder. "Legs need to be strong to pedal, of course, but to also get good landings off the jumps. I work my triceps pretty good to stay on the bike."
Magruder sees national races and possible Olympics as part of his motivation, but, for now, just to improve his skill set.
"There is a national junior league for pros under 18 years; like the fastest 14-18 years olds in the country," said Magruder. "There's probably 15 riders in that league. After that, there is Double AA, A and then three different levels of pro racers; the elites."
Magruder also said there is a Vet Pros league for former BMX riders who used to ride as youngsters then came back to the sport.
"Those dudes are like 40-50 years old riders that used to be national champions when they were younger," said Magruder. "They help a lot by talking to us young guys about track technique and training."
For now, Magruder sees his manual riding; keeping the wheels on the track more than in the air, as his strength.
"It's like a wheelie as you approach a bump," said Magruder. "That's where the leg strength comes in."
Magruder cited U.S. Olympian Connor Fields as the idol of most BMXers.
"He's a two-time Olympian (first American gold in RIO 2016), a two-time world champion (2012, 2013) and travels all over the world," said Magruder. "There's maybe 40 top tier pros that can make good money."