Freshman year is next big step for Apollo Beach youngster
Through STEPHEN FLANAGAN JACKSON
As most 6-year-olds look forward with mixed emotions to that big freshman start day just weeks away, an Apollo Beach freshman licks his chops at the chance to compete in a championship national motocross. And unlike that first step into the classroom, which he will take alone, Jack Saracino will have plenty of company as a large entourage of family and friends will accompany him on his 850-mile, one-way journey. For the promising freshman, it’s a “dream come true.”
The small-sized dirt bike racer made his debut last year at East Bay Raceway Park near Gibsonton when his mother, Jamie Saracino, a single mother who works as a nurse practitioner at an area emergency room , realized that his son needed motivation and a reward system “to do something about Jack’s lack of motivation and lack of discipline when he was 4 years old in kindergarten.”
As Jamie Saracino says, “So I sat down with Jack, and we agreed that if he was good and his behavior improved in kindergarten, I would get him a dirt bike.”
Using this carrot rather than stick approach has proven effective. Now, after a year and a half on the dirt bike and many hours of racing and training, Jack has qualified for the world’s biggest amateur motocross race at historic Loretto Lynn Ranch, just west of Nashville, Tennessee. Jack competed nationally for four months against nearly 20,000 hopefuls in the four-to-six age group to earn one of 1,512 qualifying spots in the 38th National Amateur Motocross Championship to be held from July 30 to August 3.
According to Tim Cotter, director of MX Sports – a West Virginia racing production company, “This National Amateur at Loretta Lynn is the best of the best motocrossers in America and the world. Just being here makes you “an elite racer and top athlete. A solid finish at Loretta would give you instant national recognition and a possible pro career. Cotter pointed out that many of America’s top professional motocross riders, including James Stewart, Ricky Carmichael, Travis Pastrana and Ryan Dungey, won amateur national titles with Loretto Lynn.
Since 1982, the event has been held annually during the first week of August at the home of country music star Loretta Lynn in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, and has served as a launching pad for some of the biggest names in the world. professional motocross and supercross. Top finishers from Area Qualifiers and Regional Championships earn a gate position to Nationals at Loretta Lynn. Riders can participate in a wide variety of classes, from minicycle classes for kids as young as four years old to a senior division for riders over 50. There are also classes for women and classes for production and modified vehicles. Jack competes in the highly competitive 51cc Shaft Drive Limited and is an alternate for Special Limited, both in the four to six year old division.
The trail is built on a section of the Loretta Lynn Ranch and Campground. A driver’s skills and endurance are tested with a variety of jumps, turns and other obstacles. The special motocross track is only used once a year, for motorcycles, so there is no hometown benefit. Runners compete in three 15-20 minute races during the week, sometimes in grueling temperatures. Proper training and preparation are paramount.
Most runners attend the event with the help of their families. Many consider the event their family’s summer trip, dubbing it the “world’s greatest motocross vacation”. In addition to the races, the week-long event hosts plenty of family-friendly activities including camping, swimming, a talent show, concerts and live entertainment.
Jack will make the approximately 12-hour trip to Hurricane Mills with his mother, Jamie Saracino; his sister, Madalyn Saracino; his father, Matthew Saracino; his aunt, Cindy Brown; her grandmother, Vickie Weston; her aunt, Danielle Collingsworth; and his cousins Colby and Caleb. In addition to these family members, Jack is supported by Jim Neupert with 2Fastmx. Jack also receives help and training from his stepfather, Jonathan Romandetti, who has to stay on the South Shore but regularly works on Jack’s bikes, bought Jack his first KTM 50 and rode it riding off-road motorcycles.
Race action will be broadcast live daily on RacerTV.com from July 30 through August 3. Additionally, featured shows featuring the event will air on NBC Sports in the fall. For more information on the AMA Amateur National, visit the series’ official website at mxsports.com.
Jack Saracino’s dirt bike adventures are made possible with the help of sponsors such as Butler & Boyd Law Firm, Barney’s of Brandon, Cobra of Florida, Carolina Cobra Connection, Cullen & Hemphill, Aunty Cindy Brown and Tracy and Eric Solitto. Jack won 19 races last year and competes almost every weekend at Tampa MX and other races in Florida and South Carolina.