An experience Zach Jones had a few years ago set him on the path to becoming the youth overall champion in the ATV category in the 2012 Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series.
Zach and his family had visited Durhamtown Plantation in Georgia and rented four-wheelers. He then participated in a few races, winning some of them. The experience was all it took to capture his attention and get him interested.
“I enjoyed it a lot, thought it was a lot of fun,” said the now 14-year-old. “I got pretty good at it.”
So, he began riding and three years ago he began entering races at other places in the Southeast. The races involve 5-mile courses through woods. During the most recent season, Zach placed in the top three in 12 of the 13 races.
In November, he won the series’ 12-15- year-old class and became the youth overall national champion. Last month during the awards ceremony, he also received the Youth Rider of the Year award. “The competition is the best part,” said Zach of the races.
It’s a skill that will help in life, said his father Todd.
“The sport helps drive his competitive nature, which will help him in life,” he said. “I think the more competitive you are, the more likely you are to be successful.”
Although he’s riding, the sport is physically demanding and requires preparation.
“In school, I have a weightlifting class,” said Zach, who attends North Augusta High School. “I use that as conditioning.”
Between riding and conditioning, Zach spends about 15 hours a week preparing for races, said his father.
Racing also helps him with time management. Zach is able to maintain his status as an A student despite the rigorous racing schedule.
His entire family, including his father, mother Michelle and sister Madelyn, also gets involved in the racing and it helps that the races are very family oriented, said his father.
“We put in a lot of time together, but it’s great that we do it together as a family,” he said.
Zach’s biggest fan – his 8-year-old sister.
She holds out notes with encouragement and to tell him which lines to take as he passes during races.
“I think he is the best rider,” said Madelyn.
Zach will move up into another age category this coming season, but he is looking forward to the challenge, he said.