Zionsville West Middle School student Aiden Tuell recently celebrated his 12th birthday in a special way – by placing first place in his age category at the Sept. 24 Indiana State Championship USA BMX Finals.
The state finals were in Portage in northern Indiana at the Imagination Glen BMX Track. And Sept. 24 — the last day of the finals — happened to be his birthday.
“The race was fun, but it was the race I was most nervous for,” Tuell said. “On the second day of competing, I was in fourth place overall and first for the novice category.”
Tuell, who only began competing this year, won first place overall in his age category at the championship and placed second in the state championship series overall for the season in the 12 Novice/Intermediate category. The occasion was his first time competing in a state finals race.
At age 7, Tuell, who lives in Whitestown, took an interest in BMX racing, a sport his father used to participate in. He started practicing at the BMX Indy Cycloplex in Indianapolis.
“I raced in Tennessee as a kid and enjoyed it,” said Tuell’s father, Brian Tuell. “The sport started to go away when mountain bikes came about, and people got into that. I was excited when Aiden took an interest in it because it was so fun when I was a kid. There is so much technology now, such as the components to build a bike.”
“I don’t want to spend money on hotels and travel and have him (get) beat because someone has a better bike.”
Brian Tuell said Indy Cycloplex has programs and beginner classes where people can rent bikes and try the sport. Aiden’s parents bought him a bike this year when they saw his interest grow.
“My dad and I were talking about getting a bike, and I started practicing a lot more once I got one,” Aiden said. “After that, I got an even newer bike, and that’s when I decided to do a couple of local races. When they had a state race at the Cycloplex, I tried that out and liked it, so I started competing in state races.”
Tuell’s mother, Angela Tuell, said Aiden began practicing in 2018 and began taking intro classes at Indy Cycloplex. It was not until April of this year that he started to practice seriously and compete in state competitions.
Aiden is involved in other activities, including football. He also takes piano lessons. He has two siblings, which can make juggling practice time difficult during BMX and football seasons.
“Racing season is from April to September, and my football season also just ended. I had practice for that on Mondays and Wednesdays,” Aiden said. “My BMX practice was on Tuesdays and Thursdays for two hours, but I usually only go once a week because we are all involved in many activities.”
Because the final round of the Sept. 24 state finals was on his birthday, Aiden had to move to a different age category right before his race.
“When we got to the track on Sunday, my birthday, instead of being in 11 Novice, I moved up to 12 Novice right before the state finals, so I was kind of nervous to be in a new division,” Tuell said. “We knew I would move up soon, but we did not know it would be that day.”
According to Tuell’s mother, the competitors run two or three qualifying races depending on the amount of competitors. The last race was the main state finals competition.
“I qualified first to go to the main race, and we had to wait a long time for the rest of the qualifying races to finish,” Aiden said. “I went from fourth to second in the 12 Novice/Intermediate category and won first overall for my age division.”
Aiden said his favorite part about BMX racing is going to different races and trying out new tracks. He also likes to meet new people at competitions.
Tuell’s parents said they like the sport because no competitor has to sit on the bench. They also appreciate the support of the entire racing community.
“Everybody there is competing, and nobody has to wait for playing time like in other sports,” Angela said. “He plays other sports, but we like the individual part about BMX racing because when he wins, it is on his own, and he did it all himself.”
Angela said the experience has been fun for the entire family.
“It has been fun, and as a parent, I am happy he is doing something he loves and that we get to support him,” Angela said. “It is weekends away, but our other two kids come and support him. It is a dangerous sport, which makes me nervous, but we enjoy watching him.”
During the off-season, Aiden wants to visit an indoor track to practice and continue going to Indy Cycloplex for lessons and classes when he can.
“My long-term goal is to get better and move up in the ranks,” he said. “I’d like to become a professional bike rider one day. Nobody I go to school with does it, but a couple of my friends are interested in it, and I would like more kids to get involved.”
The Aiden Tuell File
School: Zionsville West Middle School
Hobbies: Football, piano, riding bikes
Favorite color: “My favorite colors are black and red because they are my racing colors.”
Current bike: GT Factory Bike
Favorite track: Burdette Park BMX Club, Evansville