By Patty Hullett
For the Mirror
Midlothian brothers are taking their sport to new heights, as recently the Backer boys have jumped to the "expert" level in BMX bike racing.
The two sons of Rich and Roxann Backer of Midlothian first became enthralled with motocross racing, but later they drifted to BMX bike racing. Their success has been a whirlwind two-year journey to get to one of loftiest levels of a sport that is basically a year-around affair in which avid participants gallivant all over the United States.
The Backer brothers took after their parents’ love of sports, so somehow fittingly, mom and dad named their boys after two stellar hockey players, as hockey has always drawn the couple together. Marek, age 13 (8th grader at Walnut Grove Middle School) is the namesake of Marek Svatos who used to play for the Colorado Avalanche through the 2013-2014 season. Unfortunately, this talented athlete died of a drug overdose in November in 2016. Marek’s 9-year-old brother is Crosby (4th grader at Longbranch Elementary), and he is named for "Sidney Crosby" of the Pittsburgh Penguins, one of the Backers’ all-time favorite hockey stars.
In fact, mother Roxann was actually born in Canada, so her nation’s top sport has always run through her Canadian blood. She says, "I have always loved hockey, and my husband was a HUGE hockey fan, although he doesn’t have the time he would like to follow it as much these days. However, I grew up in Colorado and my husband grew up in Nebraska, so the Colorado Avalanche was our team when we lived up north."
Marek Backer – "BMX Age 14 Expert Class"
Older brother Marek has always been a determined and fierce competitor since he began his youth career two-and-a-half years ago. Unfortunately, Marek broke his femur on July 28, 2019, when he wrecked during a practice lap just before a local race at Cowtown BMX in Fort Worth.
Mom Roxann explains, "Marek had surgery the following day and started physical therapy with an amazing physical therapist about two weeks later. On his very first day at PT, the therapist asked him what his goal was. Marek didn’t hesitate, and told him his only goal was to be able to race at the Grand Championships in November over Thanksgiving. (Grands’ is the biggest, and last National contest every year in Tulsa, Oklahoma.) Surprisingly, he was back racing in October at a National in Houston. He didn’t have all his strength back yet, but did a terrific job and won!"
Roxann continues, "Since then, Marek has continued to train on and off the track most days of the week. In January 2020, he moved up to the Expert class from the Intermediate class, and the ‘13 Expert’ class seems to be one of the toughest and largest classifications in BMX competition."
Marek says, "I’ve never really thought much about why I enjoy bike racing, but it’s just become what I do and I absolutely love it! Every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and some Sundays we load up and go to the track to practice or participate in actual races. I thrive on the competition and the feeling of adrenaline I get, especially from the jumping."
"The hardest part of bike racing", says Marek, "Is doing the physical work and knowing that the results may come tomorrow or in a few years. Mentally, the most challenging thing is when you don't get the results you’re looking for at a particular race, and then you’ve got to pick yourself up and work even harder to continue to improve. I’ve been into the sport about two and a half year now. I started in March of 2018."
Crosby Backer – "BMX Age 9 Expert Class"
Crosby started to become interested in bike racing a few months later (in 2018), after watching his brother train hard, and he enjoyed seeing him gain some early success. The younger brother was also playing other sports when he first started BMX: He participated in baseball first, and then tried his hand at football. Just recently has Crosby been riding BMX full-time.
Roxann adds, "Right off the bat, Crosby won Grands his first year (2018), just like brother Marek did. They are both very athletic and as parents, Rich and I are very proud of them."
According to Crosby, "My favorite part of being in the BMX sport is being a part of a big group and racing people from all over the country, and other countries too. The very hardest thing to me is that I have to continue to push myself to learn something every day, but I like that."
Training and competition
BMX racing is broken down by age and proficiency, under the divisions labeled "novice," "intermediate" and "expert." Earning a designated amount of wins will move a rider up in the proficiency levels.
Both Marek and Crosby train with Tanner Sebesta, who is a pro BMX rider as well as the Track Operator for LoneStar BMX track in San Antonio. The Backers train and/or race 6-7 days a week. For the most part, their home training facility is in DeSoto at the DeSoto BMX track: This is where the boys spend hours and hours of time practicing and riding to improve their skills. Occasionally, they race at Cowtown BMX in Fort Worth.
Roxann explains, "All the BMX events came to a complete stop when COVID-19 hit. The boys were able to get back to riding in small groups at the beginning of May, and then national races resumed the beginning of June. However, many of the national races have been canceled or moved to different states, just depending on each states’ regulations. When at the track or races, just like anywhere else, the rules are to social distance and wear masks. If that is not possible at times, then the kids have to wear their helmets in staging."
Marek last won at a national event in January 2020 – Silver Dollar Nationals, Las Vegas, Nevada. This was the race that bumped him up to the Expert Class. Crosby last won at the Buckeye National in Ohio, July 24-26, which elevated him to Expert as well.
Normally, the "state" races don’t have specific names. Because of all the turmoil involving the coronavirus pandemic, these state races are currently being rescheduled based on health guidelines, and according to each area when contests have been set to host BMX participants.
When asked about winnings the boys have accumulated since spring of 2018, Mom Roxann says, "Um, there are too many trophies to count. Both the boys’ rooms are loaded with BMX awards. In fact, our family has donated many trophies back to the track, and their rooms are still full!"