Originally Published: May 15, 2005 5 a.m.
PRESCOTT VALLEY Five years ago, local boy Nick Walz hopped on an imposing All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) and sped around in the dirt, dust and mud to his heart's content.
Today, Walz is an 11-year-old who's still four-wheeling on his quad racer for the fun of it. But he's taking the sport of Motocross just a bit more seriously than before.
Participating in the first-ever "Daily Courier Mile-High Motocross Madness in the Mountains" racing event Saturday afternoon at the Yavapai County Fairgrounds, Walz's eyes lit up after winding and weaving through the three-quarters-of-a-mile dirt track.
"It's exciting, and when you're in the air it feels like you're a bird flying," said the wiry Walz, a fifth grader at Abia Judd Elementary School.
The fairgrounds' course, a cross between a desert and a closed-track surface, featured a series of jumps at various heights including some as high as 5-10 feet pumping adrenaline through the racers' veins.
Portions of this course are fast and smooth, while other sections are more technical and require skill.
"I've never jumped like this on anything ever," said Nick, who's been in a total of four competitive races from Flagstaff to Phoenix to Tucson.
"Motocross Madness" will run through this afternoon in the middle of the horse racing oval, with all proceeds generated from the event going to benefit the Make-a-Wish Foundation of Northern Arizona and Prevent Child Abuse in Arizona.
Saturday's races were devoted entirely to ATV racing at the novice, beginner and pro levels. Starting at 8 this morning and heading into the mid-afternoon, MX motorcycle riders at the same levels get their turn.
On Saturday Walz and his close friend, sixth grader Jacob Logan, raced in the 900 class for beginning riders, with winners receiving trophies.
Proving that motocross is a thrilling and dangerous sport, Logan bruised his hip when he fell from his bike and onto his side part way through the 900 race. Fortunately Walz was riding toward the front of the pack and close to his buddy, helping him off the course and to safety.
Walz's father, Scott, owns Prescott Valley-based Star Island Motorsports.
Scott's ATV/motorcycle dealership, which has been in business for 10 years, is a full-service shop that sells parts and accessories. He likes that Nick enjoys quad racing, but he stresses academics.
"We've always been interested in ATVs," Scott Walz said of himself and his son. "He's the one boy that I have that really took to the sport."