At Holliston High School there are many students who play basketball, go snowboarding, or ride snowmobiles, but sophomore Emily Zuraski does all of these, as well as race dirt bikes.
“When we were young, we always had four wheelers. One time, my neighbors brought over their dirt bike…I never went back to four wheelers again,” said Zuraski.
Since she was only seven years old at the time, her dad had to help her onto the bike. It was so tall that she almost tipped over a few times.
After her father explained to her how to safely ride the bike, she was off and running, doing laps in her backyard.
After riding slow and clunky four-wheelers for three years, Emily loved the speed, difficulty, and technicality of dirt-biking, and decided to pursue it. It wasn’t until a friend at a parts shop mentioned racing that she even considered it.
“It was the worst I’ve ever done, my first race,” said Emily. “It was really fun though. I got last place… The whole bike was falling apart.”
During that race, Emily’s bike couldn’t handle the rough track or the large obstacles. At one point, she even hit a rock and flipped over her handlebars. Despite her handlebars being bent from the crash, track officials helped her and she finished the race relatively unharmed.
Emily’s father, Rob Zuraski, was with her the day of her first race.
“The track was mostly in the woods, so I could only see her for short time periods during the race,” said Rob in an email. Although he’s proud of his daughter’s racing, it makes him a little nervous.
“When she crashed there were people working the track that helped her out and she was able to finish the race. Even with the crash she was very excited and wanted to come back again,” said Rob.
Even though Rob sometimes has some concerns about his daughter’s safety, he is “excited that she found something that she really loves and enjoys doing,” and is “ proud of her and love[s] to see her racing.”
Despite crashing in her very first race, Emily decided to keep biking because she was having fun and enjoyed the adrenaline rush that came with racing.
“When you’re on a dirt-bike, it’s just you and this terribly dangerous machine between your legs,” said Emily. “Being that close to danger is just such a rush that it kinda just blocks out any other struggle or stress from life at the time …And the feeling of just being out with this close community of people that ride is a really nice feeling.”
Through her racing, Emily has made quite a few friends, including Virginia Belanger, a fellow racer.
“Racing with Emily is super fun…she’s almost as crazy as I am when it comes to doing risky racing stuff,” said Belanger in an email. “[It’s] awesome because we can relate to each other in ways most friends don’t.”
When Emily and Belanger race together, they generally average around second or third place.
“I don’t have any wishes to beat her,” said Belanger, “I’m racing with her, not against her. So, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what place we get, we’re both awesome at what we do and can only get better.”
Photo by Lara Cunningham