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Gila Ridge senior buckles down to win state motorcross title
Mike Walton hoisted his 4-year-old son Austin up on his three-wheeler, fired it up and sped off down the dunes leaving everyone else in the dust. Thirteen years and a state motocross championship later, Austin Walton hasn't forgotten that feeling.
Just off of Fortuna Road in the Foothills, Walton is cruising around the dunes, clearing jumps and reflecting on winning the Arizona Motocross (AMX) 125cc Novice Division state championship and narrowly missing out on another. Walton finished second in the 250cc Novice Division due to a crash in the final race.
“I ended up having mechanical failure and ended up putting a hole in my bike. So I ended up losing in the last race. I was down two points and the guy that was ahead of me, we were neck and neck and he ended up taking it. I wasn't too upset because he's a buddy of mine.”
Walton started getting serious about motocross racing his freshman year at Gila Ridge. He and a group of friends took interest in the sport but after three years, he's the only one left.
“I taught him how to do the mechanic stuff and now he does everything himself,” his father said. “He'll swap tires, redo the motor, everything. It's been a really good experience, we've gotten to hang out quite a bit, it's good family time because about every weekend, we're out together.”
In 2010 and 2011, Austin Walton spent his weekends cutting his teeth in the AMX beginner and novice classes.
“The speed level from beginner to novice, there's about a 5-10 second difference in lap times from the front pack to the middle. Novice is where you get all the carnage, everyone crashes, everyone hits each other.
“You don't have any bike control. The front runners and a couple other select few have a lot of bike control. If they get out front, it's a pretty clean race but if we get caught in the back, you start hitting people and trying to get around them.”
Last year, Walton made a commitment to winning and sacrificed a lot of his time to winning the title.
“It took up every single weekend of the year. It gets pretty annoying, going out of town every weekend to practice or race. It's fun, but you can't really have a social life.”
Besides a few torn back muscles, three concussions and a few sprained wrists, Walton has remained relatively unscathed.
“Fortunately I've never broken any bones, which is really, really, really rare.”
His luck hasn't made any easier for his dad to watch though.
“He's been real fortunate,” Mike Walton said. “He hurt himself a couple times but he's never been ambulanced off the track. He'll get himself together, get back on the bike and finish his race. It's always hard to watch but he's got a good head on him and has been doing it forever. I'm pretty confident in his skills.”
Austin Walton's slowing down his racing schedule this year, but he's still racing from time to time. He led his first intermediate race for three laps and ended up finishing fifth.
“I ended up falling, which happens. I'm not used to that speed but I would just like to place and be more consistent in the intermediate class, Just to get more proficient and cleaner.”
Right now, Walton is focusing on finishing high school and getting ready for college. He's participating in a co-op program with the Yuma Fire Department where he gets hands-on training to see what it's like to be a firefighter.
Whatever road in life Austin Walton ends up taking, he and his dad know he'll be taking it fast.