Garner Cleveland: Sports

Racing fast, going far

Jamie McHenry is a BMX national champion and will compete in New Zealand next month.
Jamie McHenry is a BMX national champion and will compete in New Zealand next month.

Jamie McHenry is as fast as any 11-year-old girl in the country on a BMX track.

And that skill is about to take her a very long way from home.

On July 24 the rising sixth-grader at McGee’s Crossroads Middle School will be at Vector Arena in Auckland, New Zealand, competing for Team USA in the UCI’s BMX World Championships.

McHenry qualified after winning her first national age-group title at the USA Cycling Amateur BMX championships on June 1 in Nashville, Tenn.

“Going to New Zealand is going to be huge,” McHenry said before a racing session at Capital City BMX at Lions Park, the only BMX facility in the state east of Burlington. “I had won a bunch of events before, but I was pretty excited to win that one. It might be the biggest thing I’ve ever done.”

McHenry, who has been racing for about five years along with her 10-year-old brother Chris, rides for the Answer/Rennen factory team and is also sponsored by Sports Blast.

“My kids started on motocross,” explained her mother Sarah, an IT professional with North Carolina Joint Underwriters. “We had a track five minutes from our house. When she was 6, she broke her nose in two places, so we decided to go to bicycles.”

That call has paid off well.

Jamie was first in her age group this season after being ranked seventh last year and finishing second in the Cruiser (large wheel) division.

She also won the regional Redline Cup in both the Standard and Cruiser Divisions.

The year before she was ranked third in her age group, second in the NBL and won the regional Redline Cup Standard title.

When she gets to New Zealand, she’ll race three “motos” on the approximately 1,100-foot track in an attempt to move on to championship rounds.

She said her long-term goal is to compete in the 2020 Olympics, which will be held in Istanbul, Madrid or Tokyo.

“I watched the Olympics (televised from London last year) and that’s where I want to be,” Jamie explained. “(Current high school senior) Felicia Stancil is my role model. She has been (national age group) 1 almost every year.”

Jamie, who was a soccer goalie before deciding to whittle her sports down to two, is an accomplished softball pitcher as well.

She played for the Angier Rockies last year and was selected to the Angier all-star team.

“She had to give up an opportunity to play travel softball to do this,” said her father Steve, a facilities vendor specialist for The Pantry, who added that she’s an honor-roll student.

“Dedication and hard work have gotten her where she is. She’s been at it now for five years. She kind of got that fire under her a couple of years ago to work hard, and it’s that dedication that has made her good.”

Whether or not she brings home a title from across the Pacific, Jamie said she loves just about everything about BMX.

“The best things about riding are winning and hanging out with friends,” she said. “And the hardest part is having to deal with the girls that have been racing longer.

“But I really just like getting the adrenaline rush of riding. Most people haven’t had that.”