Orchard high on BMX

Attending and competing in the Canadian National BMX finals rates 10 out of 10, says Vernon’s Shylo Orchard.

Shylo Orchard of Vernon with her 2014 Girl Cruiser Championship awards.

Shylo Orchard of Vernon with her 2014 Girl Cruiser Championship awards.

Attending and competing in the Canadian National BMX finals rates 10 out of 10, says Vernon’s Shylo Orchard. And the Vernon BMX Club president and coach should know.

Orchard, 38, has been to countless nationals in Canada and the U.S., and is working tirelessly with her club as the Vernon BMX Club will host Canadian Nationals July 17-19 at Ranger Park off 20th Street.

“In my experience, it’s a 10,” said Orchard, a certified education assistant who began BMX riding as a kid, then, after becoming a mother, picked up the sport again 10 years ago when her sons, Landon and Jared Fitt, wanted to ride.

“It’s a 10 because of the sportsmanship. I know people that I never see or communicate with unless I go to nationals and then it’s almost like a reunion of BMX friendships. It’s the camaraderie, and the high-fives you get from the other riders at the end of a race is fantastic.”

Orchard is coming off a 2014 season where, as a competitor, she won the Canadian Grand Nationals for her age group and was the top Canadian woman overall.

She also went to the U.S. Grand Nationals in Tulsa, where she won the Race of Champions (Orchard was the only Canadian in her group with competitors from all over the U.S. and Australia), and claimed the North American Age Group Title.

Most of her 2015 has been busy promoting the local club and getting ready for the nationals.

BMX racing, said Orchard, gives riders so many opportunities to win.

“You can win at your local club, win in your district, win the province, win your national age group which allows you to compete against people your own age at other nationals, or you can win national overall. For us to pull in a national event gives new riders a chance to experience the event, experience the trophies, which are huge, and watch the expertise. The 12-year-old expert riders will blow your mind.

“And there’s nothing cooler than seeing a kid win a trophy that is twice their size and could literally knock them over.”

The trophy Orchard won for winning the U.S. Grand National was more than seven-feet tall.

The nationals at Ranger Park will be free to spectators and, as Orchard points out with a big grin, there is an “amazing, inexpensive concession” on site.

The Vernon Club has about 180 members who get superb, free coaching from Orchard and fellow coaches Dean Botterill, Chris Spence and Brenden Davies.

“We coach every Monday free of charge with membership to all of our riders,” said Orchard. “It’s quite cool how we have it broken down, and people try to duplicate our program. When we tell people our coaching is free, they fall out of their chairs.”’

Membership at Vernon BMX is $60 for a full calendar year. Ranger Park has been voted one of the top-20 BMX tracks in North America.

“Our goal this year has been to unlock the potential to participate,” said Orchard. “It’s the ultimate family sport. You don’t even have to have to ride a bike to participate in the club.

“We are a club where everyone can participate no matter what the level or ability, one that builds confidence and self-esteem and no one rides the bench. It’s an individual sport but with the feeling of being part of one big team.”

New club members are accepted every Monday through to October. Race nights Tuesday are free.