Wheatfield resident Jake Blake has been involved with motocross dirt bike racing for just three years. However, on Jan. 22, the 16-year-old received the Western New York Motocross Association's Rider of the Year award at the group's annual banquet.
This award is voted on by member riders and presented to the rider who best demonstrated the ability to ride competitively, safely and has shown continuous improvement throughout the year. Jake was selected from approximately 300 riders ranging in age from 4 to 50-plus.
"That's a huge accomplishment. He's well thought of by a lot of people and he's progressed rapidly," said his dad, Burton Blake.
Jake also earned a first place trophy in the 450 Novice Class and a second place trophy in the 250 Novice Class. He has been promoted to the Amateur Class for the 2011 season.
Both Jake and his brother Joe, 18, are regulars on the WNYMA circuit. WNYMA holds dirt bike races every weekend from the beginning of April to the end of October at various racetracks in Western New York and Pennsylvania.
Jake, a sophomore at Starpoint High School, loves the competition and calls himself an "adrenalin junkie."
"I plan on racing as long as I have the money, and as long as my body can take it," he said. "It's a sport. It's a hobby. It's something to look forward to during the week."
The bikes used for motocross are essentially smaller versions of a motorcycle, a dirt bike built for racing. Speeds get up to around 75 mph as the bikes go over jumps, hills and ditches. For protection, riders wear helmets, neck braces and chest protectors.
It can get expensive with the cost of admission, equipment, parts, gear, gas and food. Jake works for the state on Goat Island during the summers to help pay for his sport.
He currently is sponsored by Smith MX, a Ransomville practice track; Debadt's in Warsaw, an auto repair company; and Dr. Dominic Cimato of Amherst, Jake's longtime doctor.
For the Blakes, WNYMA racing has become a family affair. As the two boys got more and more involved, their parents bought a camper, so they could stay at race sites.
"It's quality family time with teenagers that you might not otherwise get," said their mother, Rose.
Like anything in life, there are pros and cons, she said. Racing carries with it the risk of injury. Last spring, Jake's brother Joe broke his collarbone while racing.
"It's pretty scary when it happens," said Rose. "Definitely, some days I get nervous, especially when the weather is bad."
Both parents mention the easy camaraderie at the track. If there's a problem they can't handle alone with one of their sons' bikes, other families pitch in.
"We help other people, too, so will Jake, so they don't miss a race," said Burton.
They've made friends from all over New York, Pennsylvania and Ontario while racing.
"We love it," he said.