Mitchell Zaremba learned to ride a motorcycle while his bicycle still had training wheels.
He was 5 years old when his parents gave him his first dirt bike.
Three years later, Mitchell is shaping up to be a national contender in the sport of Arenacross, a form of indoor motocross racing run on smaller courses.
This weekend, the 8-year-old boy competed in his first national event at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Mich., where he took the top prizes in races on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Mitchell is following in the footsteps of his father, Medina police Sgt. Darin Zaremba, 41, who had a pro license in the sport in the early 1990s but gave up competing regularly after joining the force almost 18 years ago.
“We’re on pace for nationals,” Zaremba said. “Mitchy cleaned up in Michigan this weekend, and if we can do it again in Pennsylvania, we’ll be headed for Las Vegas.”
Mitchell, who lives in Avon and attends third grade at a private school in Fairview Park, said he’s going to bring his winner’s plaque in to school today to show his friends. Then he’s going to hang it on his bedroom wall.
He said he wants to keep racing as long as he can because it’s so much fun.
“It feels like you’re in charge of something,” the boy said.
At competitions, Mitchell rides a 2013 Cobra 50cc dirt bike and dresses in padding and a helmet to keep safe.
“I go pretty fast, like 20 mph,” he said.
Zaremba said he worries about his son’s safety on the track, but he’s done all he can to make sure his son stays uninjured.
“First and foremost, we’ve spent a lot of time and energy getting all the safety gear we can — helmets, elbow pads, Leatt (chest protectors),” he said. “And we’ve worked really hard to perfect his technique to keep him safe.
“But on race night, I’m as nervous as he is.”
Zaremba said his son usually practices twice a week in Avon or Cleveland and competes weekly, biweekly or monthly, depending on the season, normally in neighboring states. Mitchell will compete next on Feb. 9 in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
He said watching his son race is a great replacement for personally competing.
“I get more satisfaction out of watching him than I ever got racing,” Zaremba said. “I’m seeing vicariously through his eyes.”
Contact reporter Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or firstname.lastname@example.org.