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Jaywalking: Family fun

Perhaps you could say that two area teens are making the sport of BMX racing a little more “funky.”

Maybe that’s just a bad play on words, but the fact is that Aimee and Grayson Funk both captured state championships during the USA BMX Massachusetts State Championships over the weekend at Whip City BMX in Westfield.

Winning state titles is nothing new to the brother-sister pairing from Greenfield. This marked the fourth consecutive season Aimee had won a state title, while Grayson took home his second trophy. And don’t expect them to stop here. There could be plenty more trophies for both of them in the future.

The family first got into BMX racing four years ago when the then 9-year-old Grayson gave it a try as an alternative to playing baseball. He fell in love with the sport and actually won the 9-year-old Novice Division State Championship. Older sister Aimee also gave the sport a shot after first being only a spectator at her brother’s races. She initially did not enjoy the sport, but a second delve into it proved to be the sticking point as Aimee took a liking to the biking.

Aimee, a 17-year-old senior at Mohawk Trail Regional High School, has now won a state title in four consecutive years after Saturday’s win. On top of that, she took home a pair of state titles this season, in the Stan dard Division (made up of bikes with 20-inch tires), as well as the Cruiser Division (24-inch tires).

The path to the states includes four qualifying races before the state championship. Riders must race in at least three of the qualifiers, and their three best finishes are averaged out for a score. Those scoring highest make it to the state finals. Aimee, who now competes in the ages 17-20 Girls’ Class, won all three of her qualifying events in both the Standard Division and Cruiser Division and then took first on Saturday in both. Grayson, an eighth-grader at Great Falls Middle School, won one of his qualifiers and took second in the other two, before winning the state final on Saturday.

There was an underlying story with Grayson, however; because he won his first qualifier, if he had won another race he would have moved up to the Expert Class due to having 12 career wins. Instead, he took second twice and then with Saturday’s win he secured the 13-year-old Intermediate Class title and moved up to the Expert Class in the process.

“I was pretty much waiting for the states to get that last win,” Grayson said. “I’m excited to move up to Expert. I’ll be racing better, more experienced competition, and hopefully that will help me get better.”

The win was also redemption for Grayson, who had the state title wrapped up last season but crashed and broke his arm and wound up missing out on the title.

“Coming back and winning the title without crashing this time felt pretty good,” he said. “But I was a little nervous because soccer season is starting and I didn’t want to crash and get hurt again.”

As for the sport of BMX racing, aside from interviewing the Funks, I know very little about it. Aimee broke it down for me and anyone else that is like me and knows little about the sport. While every track is different, here’s the “BMX Racing for Dummies” version of a race as told by Aimee:

Riders begin on a starting hill that she said is about 30 meters long and has an electric gate the front tire of the bike rests on. A series of beeps counts down to the start and the gate drops, allowing riders to take off. Tracks can vary in size, but she figured the typical track is about a quarter-mile long and consists of a mixture of left- and right-hand turns as well as a mix of different jumps. Some tracks also have asphalt down on the turns to help riders grip.

Aimee said that the trick to a successful race is being able to control your bike while maintaining the fastest speed. She said she feels like her speed is getting to the point that it is faster than what she can control, so that is an area she would like to improve. Helping her to build up her athleticism is the fact that she competes on the girls’ cross country and track & field teams at Mohawk. So she is well-conditioned.

Next summer, Aimee will possibly be preparing to head off to college, and she said she is not sure how much time she will have to dedicate to the sport. But no matter if she continues racing at a serious level or not, she will continue to watch her brother racing, and that will be in the Expert Class.

As I finished speaking to the five-time state champion I also asked about the cross country team at Mohawk, which is entering the season as the defending champion in the league.

“We look really good this season,” she explained. “We have a lot of girls this season, which is amazing. I was talking with one of the guys on the football team and he said that we have half as many people as our football team does, and we have a lot of the top athletes in the school on the team, which is good. We are all excited after last season.”

September is Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month and sports teams at Greenfield High School will be doing their part to raise awareness themselves.

Pediatric cancer (or childhood cancer) is themed by the color gold so Greenfield sports teams will be “Going for the gold” this fall.

The volleyball team, boys’ and girls’ soccer teams, football team and field hockey teams are each likely going to have at least one “gold out” game, where players will be wearing some sort of gold attire, whether a ribbon, shoelaces or socks. There may also be baked goods sold to raise money at different games.

According to multiple articles, more than 11,000 children are diagnosed with cancer each year yet the National Cancer Institute uses just four percent of federal funding to combat pediatric cancer. Stay tuned for more details, including the dates of games tagged as gold out games.

You find out all sorts of interesting little tidbits when putting together the fall sports previews, including the fact that Mohawk field hockey coach Lynn Hoeppner’s coaching tree got a little bigger this fall.

Hoeppener’s daughter and former Mohawk field hockey player Madeline Hoeppner just took over as field hockey and women’s lacrosse coach at Husson University in Bangor, Maine. Hoeppner graduated from Sacred Heart University in 2013 with a degree in Marketing and last fall coached at Ridgefield (Conn.) High School.

Lynn Hoeppener, who is used to coaching a team that wears blue uniforms and is named the Warriors at Mohawk, will now also have some green Eagles’ attire in her closet to match her daughter’s new collegiate job. Husson was recently picked to finish second in the North Atlantic Conference, according to the preseason coaches poll. The Eagles are off to a solid start under Hoeppner, beating Manhattanville and Southern Maine to start the season 2-0.

Jason Butynski is a Greenfield native and Recorder sportswriter. His email address is jbutynski@recorder.com

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