Bikers battle at Oak Mountain

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 20, 2007

PELHAM &8212; BMX racers from across the southeast came to Oak Mountain State Park over the weekend to compete in the National Bicycle League (NBL) Oak Mountain BMX Southeastern Regional.

While many were there to win, all were there to have fun, including Pelham residents Morgan Johnson, 16, and Ashton Johnson, 10. Moments before pre-race activities were supposed to begin Friday evening, the brothers were asked to be sponsored by Team Motto Filler. One of the main reasons, according to team manager Taylor White, of Helena, is fun.

&8220;The whole aspect of BMX is to have fun, and they follow that to a T,&8221; White said.

It&8217;s that same love for the sport that drives the elder Johnson brother to the track each week.

&8220;I&8217;ve always loved riding my bike. Now that I&8217;ve found out that you can race on your bike, it&8217;s even bette,&8221; Morgan Johnson said. &8220;This is nothing but stamina and I will never go to a different sport. I love this sport.&8221;

Johnson got his start in BMX racing after watching his younger brother race for two years.

&8220;I thought to myself since I was coming here to watch him race, I might as well join racing,&8221; the older brother said.

After one year, Morgan Johnson captured the state title in his division and has moved to No. 15 in Alabama in the novice category among all ages.

His younger brother was only two spots behind prior to the weekend race and was a favorite to perform well Saturday.

That he did, as Ashton Johnson posted a perfect day, winning all three of his mottos (qualifying rounds) and his main event in the regional race.

The younger Johnson&8217;s winning continues to spread racing influence, even beyond his older brother.

Pelham resident and schoolmate Dale Duke, 10, remembers seeing Ashton wearing his state champion shirt in the hallways. Now, Duke, with the help of a birthday gift of BMX gear in March, is on the track for his first year, finishing second in two mottos Saturday.

&8220;I was surprised in how good I did,&8221; Duke said. &8220;It was really, really fun.&8221;

Another young &8217;Bama BMX champion, Zach Smith, 8, of North Shelby County, also picked up a win on Saturday, but finished second on Sunday in the 8-year-old expert division.

&8220;I had fun, and at least I didn&8217;t lose. It was a good race. I was so excited,&8221; Smith said.

Smith&8217;s father, Hank, captured first in the 35-39 cruiser competition and is preparing to travel to Evansville, Ind. for a race this weekend.

White hopes that both Johnson brothers will continue to improve and also hit the national scene soon.

&8220;They&8217;ve progressed up through the ranks from rookie to novice and hopefully up to expert next year when they go back on the national circuit,&8221; White said.

The Johnsons are taking a year off from the national scene in order to save up for a family trip this fall.

Oak Mountain hosts numerous races through the summer, but its next large race will be the state championships in September.