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Spokane host to national BMX races this weekend

UPDATED: Tue., Aug. 15, 2017, 10:06 p.m.

Spokane BMX Club member John Haynes, 12, catches air during a past race at the Dwight Merkel Sports Complex. He and over 2,000 other riders will compete in this weekend’s USA BMX Lumberjack Nationals, the largest BMX event Spokane has ever hosted. (Gary Hoover)
Spokane BMX Club member John Haynes, 12, catches air during a past race at the Dwight Merkel Sports Complex. He and over 2,000 other riders will compete in this weekend’s USA BMX Lumberjack Nationals, the largest BMX event Spokane has ever hosted. (Gary Hoover)

When 12-year-old John Haynes is darting down a dirt track, the Spokane BMX member is often hundreds of miles from home.

National races have been absent from the Spokane area, prompting the region’s most decorated riders to compete elsewhere.

Not this weekend.

Spokane is host to the 2017 USA BMX Lumberjack Nationals at Dwight Merkel Sports Complex on Friday through Sunday, an event slated to attract over 2,000 participants from the U.S. and Canada.

Races begin at 8 a.m. and admission is free.

The biggest BMX event in city’s history, over 200 races are expected in various skills and age divisions, ranging from toddlers to 50-year-old adults.

Haynes, ranked No. 1 in the state in the expert cruiser division, is looking forward to the occasion.

“It’s nice not having to have to travel and have it right here,” said Haynes, a Coeur d’Alene resident. “And, since it’s our home track, there’s going to be a little more pressure. There’s going to be a lot of competition.”

Spokane BMX, a club with roughly 300 members, is loaded with riders expecting to add to their season-point totals, including standout Lizzy Bowers (15-16 girls expert).

Jay Brothers, BMX Spokane’s track president and operator, believes the club’s members will rise to the occasion.

“With their first time competing at home on a national level, I am expecting some surprises,” he said. “A lot of them should bring home hardware.”

Racing on a revamped track – one with the highest starting hill in the Northwest – should help.

Spokane BMX, Spokane Parks and Recreation and the Spokane Sports Commission collaborated on a plan to get the track and facilities to national standards.

The Spokane Sports Commission donated $50,000 to the project, Brothers said.

“A lot of people haven’t been to our new track, so this is huge,” said Brothers.

The event is expected to bring in an estimated $2.3 million to the local economy, according to the Spokane Sports Commission.