Many children can’t wait to take the training wheels off their bicycles.
Justin Posey was one of them. Now he’s among the top BMX racers in the United States.
Posey, 19 and a 2012 graduate of Reagan High School, is a freshman at Marian University in Indianapolis and the reigning BMX Collegiate National Champion.
He won the college title in Phoenix in March, and that led to his selection to USA Cycling’s 10-rider team for the UCI Supercross BMX World Cup, held April 19-20 in Manchester, England.
Posey said he started riding bikes when he was about 3, and that a neighbor saw how good he was and suggested he ride the BMX track at Tanglewood Park in Clemmons. Posey said he first raced at Tanglewood when he was 6.
“I’ve been born and raised basically in BMX,” Posey said in a recent telephone interview. “I’ve done a few things on the side. I swam in high school. I swam when I was younger, too, but I primarily raced BMX.”
Posey also played baseball when he was younger, but nothing satisfied him like BMX, and his mother, Michele, said that racing became a labor of love for the family.
“He was like 9, and we were at a race in Atlanta, a national race,” Michele Posey said. “National races are usually two days, and we had to come back because he was on the baseball team. They were in like the playoffs at the end of the season. He cried, and he said, ‘I don’t want to play baseball. I just want to ride my bike.’”
Michele Posey said she and her husband, Steve, encouraged Justin to pursue cycling when he was about 9 and that he was a consistently good racer until he was 12 or 13.
“He was really teeny, tiny when he hit high school, but people would always come up to me and say your child has so much talent, and he has the will and the drive that he will make it through this. And he’s really going to go places,” Michele Posey said.
Justin said that things were tough on him until he matured.
“I hit a little slump when I was like 13 or 14,” he said. “But I hit a growth spurt … and I finally ended up turning it around. I’ve been really going at it. I’ve been on the national scene the last two years.”
Posey eventually developed a relationship with Ryan Birk, now his BMX-specific coach at Marian and a former student at the school. Birk’s wife, Natarsha, is a former BMX racer from Australia, and she and Posey once had the same sponsor.
Ryan Birk, who also works for Answer BMX and sells racing equipment, said he and Posey became fast friends, and both say they have a big brother/little brother relationship.
“He was the fun kid everybody liked to be around,” Birk said. “He’s so friendly, and he’s always smiling. He’s just that cool kid that everybody liked. From a marketing standpoint he was kind of the role model that we wanted.”
Posey was originally planning to attend UNC Charlotte, but after Birk took the coaching job at Marian, he asked Posey to visit before making his final college decision.
“I told Dave Peterson, who’s the head coach for the entire cycling program at Marian, I have to give you a name,” Birk said. “He’s not only fast on the track, but he’s a good kid. He’s going to be a good student, and he’s a kid that everybody likes. He’s going to be the bright light that the rest will follow.”
Birk said he didn’t pressure Posey but that he did call Michele Posey and that they arranged a visit for Justin.
“He’s a solid student, and he’s a world-level rider, so that ended up being a pretty good deal,” Peterson said.
Marian has won 21 national championships in cycling, but BMX is in only its second year as a college sport, and this is the first Marian has offered it.
“They were offering BMX riders scholarships to race mountain bikes, but this was the first year they had collegiate BMX cycling,” Posey said. “I was one of the first to receive a legit BMX scholarship. So that was pretty exciting.”
Posey said that there were about 15 teams at nationals in Phoenix and that he hopes the sport continues to flourish.
“It was pretty exciting, in all honesty,” he said. “I had never won a USA Cycling title, so I really enjoyed that.”
At the World Cup races last month in England, Posey made the quarterfinals and said he did better than he expected. He also has qualified for a World Cup race in Argentina on May 10-11.
“It’s always a good experience to go out and compete against other guys,” Posey said. “It will be exciting to race on a new track and a new country.”
Posey says he will continue to train at the USA BMX Cycling facility in Chula Vista, Calif., and that qualifying for the U.S. team for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro is a realistic goal for him. He did say he thinks it will be difficult for him to make a living racing BMX, but said he wants to graduate and work with Answer BMX to market the sport.
“Right now, I am in a good position with the U.S. to make a good run, so I have (three) more years to make some progression, and hopefully, I’ll have a good shot,” he said.