Seneca Valley student Austin Lawson is one of several at the school who have found a love for motocross.
JACKSON TWP — Austin Lawson’s room is littered with trophies and plaques. Between several hundred Motocross races, Lawson estimates he must have a little over 200. That collection has forced a storage issue. All of the excess hardware had to be moved to the basement, but now that is starting to fill up. Even that extra space is now starting to run out of room. Lawson, a junior at Seneca Valley High School, has several theories on what will happen to them all. He knows he can’t keep them all. “I’ll have to start using them as firewood, there are too many,” Lawson said. “I want to keep my first-ever plaques and trophies from when I started out. My little cousins come over and I’ll give them trophies. I could have a little friend competition and give them out.” Lawson is one of five members of the Seneca Valley Motocross team that competes in a sport not sponsored by the school. Fellow junior Tyler Tuite, sophomore Adam Herb, Spencer Wagner and seventh grader Cody Andreas also compete. During the winter, the group practices together and they focus on competing from spring until fall. They practice at Switchback Raceway in Butler. For Lawson, who started competing at 8 years old, racing didn’t start by winning trophies. It started with an anxiety-filled race through the woods. A hare scramble is an off-road race requiring riders to follow markers and navigate their way through the terrain. Lawson didn’t get off to a good start. “I hated it. When you’re doing wood races, they have different color arrows for different races,” Lawson said. “I followed the wrong trails and got stuck in the middle of nowhere.” So Lawson sat and waited. Eventually a track official came through to check on the riders and found Lawson. After that Lawson told his grandfather, who entered him in the race, there would be no more off-road races. He would stick to the track. Lawson now competes in the 250 CC, School boy class, two-stroke and 450 CC classes. “I was definitely worried,” Lawson said. “I was sitting in the middle of the woods and didn’t hear anyone coming. A track official came riding through and helped me get my bike started. It wasn’t a pleasant feeling.” Tuite knows about unpleasant feelings. He’s spent the last three months in physical therapy rehabbing a broken tibia and fibula he sustained at the Breezewood Proving Grounds Aug. 1. Going over a jump, Tuite bailed off his bike and fell 15-20 feet to the ground. Despite the setback, Tuite is ready to make his comeback. “My dad has been around the sport for a long time and I know the injuries and consequences of racing,” Tuite said. “The love (for the sport) has pushed me past that. It runs in the genes. Nothing fazes us, I want to get right back out there.” Tuite, like Herb, got a late start. Both started about two years ago, while the team’s youngest member, Andreas, had his first race at 3 years old, competing at the Pymatuning Holeshot Raceway. Despite the varying levels of experience, it’s a competitive group. Since Andreas is younger and rides a smaller bike, he can’t keep up in some of their competitions against each other. There are some things he can win at, though. “Sometimes I win at hole shots and that’s about it,” Andreas said. “It’s the start of the race when the gates are up. I have the quickest reaction time.” Herb always liked bikes, but having friends who competed helped him decide to get into competition. “It was something new to do,” Herb said. “When I was younger I rode. My friend (Lawson) got into it, so I decided to try it.” Between the five racers this year, they won 25 year-end championship awards. Herb, who races senior mini class and super mini class, qualified for Lorretta Lynn’s Nationals this year. Lawson won eight year-end awards, while Andreas also captured eight. Wagner, who races in the 250 CC class and school boy class, also competes in the Grand National Cross Country races, which are off-road courses. Tuite, who missed the fall due to his injury, looks forward to returning to the track. Last fall, he beat Lawson for the first time. Returning to jump won’t be an issue. “Jumping is definitely my favorite and I love to do it,” Tuite said. “It really keeps it fresh.” Lawson welcomes the challenge. Just extra motivation to continue to add to his ever-growing trophy collection. “What I enjoy about it is it’s a getaway and a way to relieve all your anger and stress by putting energy into racing and improving,” Lawson said. “The feeling you get flying through the air at 110 feet is incredible.”