He recently made a statement at the Disney Cup Nationals in Orlando, Fla., winning several BMX titles and the prestigious Disney Cup as the top racer in the 15-16 age division.
The Disney Cup is his seventh national win in 18 countrywide races. He has become devoted to the sport he began as a 15-year-old in 2008. This exceptional accomplishment has put him on the threshold of earning his “expert” designation ... the step before declaring as a professional BMX racer.
The son of Reneé and Andrew Linton, Jake began his racing pursuits at the Bradley County BMX track on Urbane Road in 2008. He has been home-schooled since the first grade through the Gateway Christian Academy and admits that getting his education that way gives him more time and freedom to pursue his racing dreams.
The slender young racer said he finished third in his first-ever race and has since become deeply involved in the sports. His parents say he spends considerable time practicing and studying how he can become better.
“I take film of the races (especially the national meets) and Jake Studies the film,” said his father.
The young racer said the sport requires continual improvement, the reason he practices continually and studies past performances.
His first national title came in his fourth race when he won the Dixieland National at Powder Springs, Ga. He has since won six additional national titles, including the recent Disney Cup.
The young racer explained that it takes eight wins to become ranked as an intermediate racer ... a plateau he reached some time ago. He said it required eight national wins or 25 wins as an intermediate racer to be classified an “expert.”
Jake has 20 wins and three national titles this year, after his recent conquests in Orlando.
He said Monday that his immediate focus is on the Tulsa, Okla., Nationals to be held Thanksgiving Week. This is the final national race of the 2010 season and will draw approximately 60,000 racers for “The Grand” event. This competition includes point leaders from every state.
Jake recently received notification that he has accumulated enough state points to compete in “The Race of Champions” in Tulsa.
“There are so many racers competing (in Tulsa) that it takes four days,” said Jake’s mother in describing the qualifying process of reaching one of the eight positions in the final race.
The young BMX racer is sponsored by Cleveland’s Tako Yaki Restaurant and owners Carlos and Eunice Kal and their children, Kelvin, 2, and Karen, seven months.
The sponsor has purchased a bicycle, bicycle parts, uniforms, a tent, paid some of Jake’s expenses and provided professional training. The Lintons said the sponsor’s assistance has been a tremendous benefit to the young racer.
“He came to us as a customer, and said he loved our food,” said Eunice Kal. “The sponsorship is also good for us (with the recognition we receive at local, regional and national races),” said Carlos. “It’s a good partnership.”
The young racer says the past two years have been enjoyable, but emphasized that BMX racing is a dangerous sports. He has broken both wrists (twice). He’s also suffered a broken shoulder and a broken thumb. When injured, he has missed practice time and race time.
“I have a training program I go by, with sprints and general track time,” Jake said. “I spend as many hours as I can on the track.”
“When he’s not practicing, he studying film,” said his father.
“Sometimes it does get old,” Jake said of the time he spends practicing and preparing for races. “But, in competition you see how much it helps. It’s a love-hate relationship. Practice makes you better ... not perfect.”
The young BMX racer said he competes in 40 to 50 local or regional races each season.
His 17th birthday will be Dec. 1, which is three days after the year’s final national race in Tulsa. His hope is to win two national races at The Grand, which will qualify him for “expert” status. If this doesn’t happen, he anticipates becoming an “expert” early in the 2011 racing season.
His ultimate goal is to turn professional (and race for money). He would like to race on a factory team, or perhaps form a professional team of his own.
If his racing pursuits don’t pan out, he has alternate plans. He said he would like to study graphic design and/or photography as a future career ... but only if he doesn’t have a career in racing.
Most of his family are into the sport, all but an older brother. Jonathan Linton, 20, is the performing arts director for the Cleveland Boys and Girls Club and has little interest in racing — although he is a big supporter of his younger brother.
“It took a little time to determine what I could do (in racing), and to decide that I can take it to the next level,” Jake said. “I won my first title in my third race, and I defeated some experts,” he said. “That made my decision for me.”
Jake said the danger and the injuries do not faze him.
“The injuries have made him stronger,” said his mother. “He comes back with a hunger for more racing and more wins.”
His mother also emphasized how intense her son is when he races, especially in the national events. “He has a different race when he races in those races,” she said. “They (other racers) do also.”
“The higher level you go, the greater the concentration,” Jake said. “Also, at the higher level of racing there is more physical contact. In this sport you have to think, and not think, at the same time.”
Jake also emphasized a racer’s connection to his bike. “It’s kind of like a jockey and his horse,” he said. “I keep my ‘horse’ with me all the time.”
The young Cleveland racer has two main competitive bikes, a 20-inch racer he won with in Orlando, and a larger bike (20 inches and up) called a “Cruiser.” He also explained that the speed of the race increases with the skill levels ... 30 to 40 mph as an intermediate, 40 to 50 mph as an expert and 50 to 55 mph in the Pro Class.
Jake’s victory in the Disney Cup is the second championship for a Southeast Tennessee racer. Jordan Wright of Athens, a 10-year-old, won a Disney Cup a couple of years ago. To win the cup, you have to finish in first place three consecutive days.
For now the young Cleveland racer is content with a few regional races in preparation for “The Grand” in Tulsa during Thanksgiving Week.
Two more national titles and expert status are his goals. After that ... he may decide to become a professional BMX racer when he reaches the qualifying age of 19. But, he has plenty of time to make that decision.