Area BMX bicycle racers enjoying success, setting lofty goals
Sam, 11, owns an X-Box, but he turns to it in rai ny-day desperation only.
“I don’t play it much, unless I’m really extremely bored,” Sam said.
Ross, 9, has the same mindset. Ross’ father, Jim, is amazed at his son’s dedication to bike racing.
“We got a Wii for Christmas, and we’ve played it maybe six times,” Jim Schaffitzel said. “Ross just wants to ride his bike.’’
Ironically, the BMX passion started in front of the television when then 7-year-old Ross was watching BMX riders during an X-Games broadcast.
“I said, ‘Dad, do you think I can do that?’ ” Ross said.
Ross’ dad got off the couch and took Ross to a horse barn on the Walworth County Fairgrounds that is home to an indoor BMX track. Eventually, Ross entered three races there.
At first, Sam just tagged along to watch, but the BMX bug bit him hard, and the boys’ adventure snowballed. The pair race at least three weekends per month, traveling throughout the state, Illinois and Indiana.
Both have earned national and state awards and own trophies almost as tall as they are en route to making names for themselves in the sport.
Ross’ father became the boys’ chief mechanic and went the extra mile, building a BMX track in the backyard, much to the chagrin of his wife, Leann.
“We learned as we went along,” Jim Schaffitzel said. “Going to the races, you pick up a little bit here and there.’’
Adding to the mix is nationally ranked BMX racer Brandon Ceslok, 14, of Janesville. Ceslok, a freshman at Janesville Parker High School, has been competing in BMX since he was 7.
Ceslok, ranked No. 4 nationally among 14-year-old BMX racers, gives Sam and Ross tips on riding.
“I think both do really good and did awesome at the nationals in Wisconsin (Wisconsin Rapids),” Ceslok said. “They both like to ride their bikes and want to do well.’’
Ceslok said the key to BMX success is riding—a lot.
“I just like really riding a bike a lot,” Ceslok said. “I do my homework and ride the rest of the night.”
Ceslok travels throughout the country, entering races as far away as California. Ceslok is gearing toward his third appearance at the BMX Grand Nationals in Oklahoma on Thanksgiving weekend.
“I’d like to make the 2016 Olympics,” Ceslok said. “I might be too young, but I would like to make it if I can.’’
Ross and Sam want to work their way up to Ceslok’s level. Sam has more than 25 victories and has earned expert status. Both are state champions in their age group.
An expert rating opens up doors to BMX national competition across the country. Structural Concepts of Spring Lake, Mich., agreed to sponsor Sam on the national circuit, and Ross has Bob’s Bike shop in Rockford, Ill., as a sponsor.
Like Ceslok, both have an eye on making a bid for the Olympics.
It’s a long ride to that level, but at this point, it’s not a problem.
“I never stop riding,” Sam said. “My grandma (Laurie Wrenn) said, ‘Take a break; you are going to wear yourself out,’ but I never stop.’’
The young duo wants to be on television, not in front of it.