It’s become a tradition. The last two years the week before the week before Independence Day has been Jackson McCarty’s time to shine.
Once again, the 10-year-old motocross protégé qualified for the Loretta Lynn National Championship race.
His performance has made Jackson this week’s Oconee Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation/Oconee Enterprise Athlete of the Week.
The event has nearly 20,000 amateur racers attempting to qualify annually. To qualify puts a racer in elite company, as only 1,512 qualifying positions are available for the event held at Loretta Lynn’s ranch in Hurricane Hills, Tennessee.
Former champions include professional champions James Stewart, Ryan Dungey, Travis Pastrana and Ricky Carmichael.
This year Jackson earned his ticket to Hurricane Hills in two different divisions after making it in one division last year.
There was a little more uncertainty in the journey to Loretta Lynn this year. COVID-19 placed doubts in the heads of all planning to attempt to qualify.
It was uncertain for a period of time that the qualifying races would take place and there is still uncertainty of what August will bring when racers converge for the five-day event.
Jackson took four weeks off as the pandemic swept the world.
“We were really worried at first when everything started,” Jackson’s mother Marianne McCarty said. “We took a good solid four weeks off. When he did start riding again it was really nerve-wracking. You definitely didn’t want any injuries, which we never want, but you’re definitely scared of the hospitals.”
The McCarty family finally caved under the sad faces of Jackson and allowed him to return to the track.
“I finally realized that this was going to be here for awhile and he was miserable, so we couldn’t keep him away from what he loves,” Marianne said. “We gave in. I’m glad we did. I feel like the time away helped him. He came back stronger than he was before. Sometimes breaks do that.”
Jackson found ways to stay active during his break. He went fishing, scratched his bike love by riding mountain bikes and spent time outdoors.
Jackson enjoyed that time. It didn’t compare to the feelings he felt when he was given the news he could race again. Being away played a role in Jackson’s jump to two divisions.
“I got to ride more,” Jackson said.
Jackson’s response when he was told he could return was simple.
“I told her thank you,” Jackson said.
Oconee Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation/Oconee Enterprise Athlete of the Week is chosen by the sports staff of The Oconee Enterprise. You are welcome to email nominations to email@example.com by Monday at 10 a.m.
Oconee Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation can be reached at www.oconeept.com