One-Wheeled Wonders

One-Wheeled WondersThese Okaloosa County teens didn’t reinvent the wheel,  but they’ve sure made it more fun to ride By Zandra Wolfgram

Forrest Rackard and Anna Jinks are happiest when spinning their wheels. OK, make that “wheel,” as in just one. The quiet, lanky 16-year-old from Fort Walton Beach and the bubbly 16-year-old from Shalimar are both turning heads with their talents atop the unicycle.

SPINNING HIS WHEEL Forrest Rackard, 16, is the first person in North America to land a 900 unispin, in which the rider jumps up and spins the unicycle two-and-a-half rotations (900 degrees), and lands back on the cycle. Photo by Scott Holstein

Within the categories of “flatland” and “street” unicycle riding, Rackard is the first person in North America to land a 900 unispin, in which the rider jumps up and spins the unicycle 900 degrees around, or two-and-a-half rotations, and lands back on the cycle. The 900 took him a few months to master, but soon after, he nailed a 1080 (pronounced “ten-eighty”), or three full spins — a trick only one other person in the world has accomplished.

Rackard’s cool stunts placed him in the spotlight at the week-long North American Unicycling Championships and Convention, held in Minnesota last summer. There, Rackard rode home with gold, silver and bronze medals in the three categories he participated in — and caught the eye of Kris Holm, the best-known unicyclist in history. Shortly thereafter, Rackard was invited to become one of six youths in the world to join Holm in promoting the sport. According to his father, who taught him to ride four years ago, it was a dream come true.

“Forrest has reached the pinnacle,” Dennis Rackard says.

But for the Choctawhatchee High School junior, becoming a goodwill ambassador for the sport isn’t the end of the story. His first taste of national success has inspired him to accomplish even more.

“It was a big goal; now I hope to represent my sponsor at an international competition in Europe,” Forrest Rackard says.

Anna Jinks’ path to unicycling glory was a bit different from Rackard’s. Back in the fourth grade, she received a unicycle as a Christmas present and was immediately hooked. Just three years later, she was competing.

In 2009, there weren’t many categories at the North American Unicycling Championships and Convention in which Jinks didn’t take first place. Her success included victories in the speed, flatland, street, high jump and long jump categories. During the competition, Jinks earned her stripes as the first girl in the world to land two particularly difficult jumps — a double crank flip and a trey flip. She wowed the Minnesota crowd by pulling off the trey flip, double flip, hick flip and crank flip in one run.

The two unicyclists aren’t one-trick ponies. Jinks is enrolled in the International Baccalaureate program (IB) and plays on the volleyball team at Choctawhatchee High School. Rackard is president of the high school’s junior class, also is enrolled in IB and plays on the varsity basketball team.

With their already-busy schedules, why do these busy teens make time to ride?

“It allows me to stay in shape and have fun and be creative with learning new tricks,” the soft-spoken Rackard says. “It also gives me a sense of accomplishment when I land something new.”

Jinks is excited to have found a sport she can grow into over the years.

“I like unicycling because it’s addictive,” the Choctaw junior says. “It’s new and unique, and I like that.”

 Although unicycling is more popular in the North, where clubs can top 90 members, Rackard and Jinks have introduced the sport to their peers by forming a unicycle club at Choctawhatchee High. The club has 15 members and meets on Sunday afternoons. Members practice, trade tips on tricks and train new riders.

“We have taught at least 20 to 25 kids to ride in our area,” Rackard says.

But that’s not all the two champions do for others. Once a week, Rackard and Jinks join up with two other high school pals to reach out to “at risk” students at Fort Walton Beach’s Pryor Middle School. They distribute a reading assignment, talk about it, review vocabulary words and then demonstrate their unicycling techniques.

“We use unicycling to inspire the kids to do better in school,” Jinks says. “It’s cool.”

Take it from Rackard and Jinks: Whether riding a unicycle or anything else you set out to do, if you stay confident and positive, you will set the wheels of success in motion.