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Riders offer stunts with a message for Kingman kids

Jonny Harnisch, a professional BMX rider from Tempe, swivels over his bike after shooting off a ramp during a performance for students at Kingman High School. Harnisch travels with John Parker, owner of StuntMasters Action Sports, performing stunts and giving motivational talks to students.

Duo stresses the value of hard work, personal responsibility

KINGMAN - The crowd of students sitting in the bleachers Tuesday at Kingman High School wasn't an easy sell for two professional BMX riders performing on the track.

"Back flip! Back flip! Back flip!" chanted a group of boys, holding up their cell phones to capture on video a variety of bike stunts on the ground and over a large ramp. The riders gladly obliged, but not before telling their personal stories and encouraging the students to be responsible, trustworthy and willing to work hard to make their dreams become a reality.

"You're at the beginning and you've got your whole life ahead of you," said John Parker, owner of StuntMasters Action Sports in Gilbert. "Everything you do from now on will be reflected in who you are in the years to come. Some day you'll wake up and see that either all your dreams came true because of your actions or you let them slip away."

Parker, 39, and Jonny Harnisch, 25, have been touring the state to ignite a passion in youth for BMX riding and to motivate students to excel. Parker, a professional BMX rider since 1994, began riding in high school and was sponsored by GT Bicycles the week he graduated. Parker has traveled the U.S. and 15 countries since then, even touring with professional BMX rider Tony Hawk for five years. Harnisch has been riding professionally for 12 years.

BMX riding was an all-consuming passion, said Parker, motivating him to refine his stunts so he could win competitions and travel the touring circuit. Parker stopped competing three years ago and focused on spreading his message to school students. Parker said that while 90 percent of his audience appreciates being able to get out of class for an hour to see bike stunts, another 10 percent take his words to heart and use them to motivate themselves to succeed.

Austin Crisel, 17, an 11th-grader, couldn't wait for Parker and Harnisch to perform a back flip and loudly proclaimed his desire with a group of friends sitting at the top of the bleachers. They hooted and cheered as the two riders jumped a ramp and Parker sat in a chair while Harnisch flew over his head on a bike. Finally, Harnisch gathered speed, hit the ramp and flipped over backwards in the air before landing safely.

"I got into this performance big time," said Crisel. "Especially the back flip. That was something big that took guts and wasn't like the small stuff anyone else can do. Actually, I was very impressed with the whole show. Not many people talk these days about being respectful and trustworthy and honest. Maybe that message will change some of these kids' minds here."

Autumn Anderson, 16, an 11th-grader, gathered with a group of students on the track after the performance, seeking Parker's autograph. Anderson was thrilled when he signed her cell phone case with a marker.

"I thought the program was very inspirational," said Anderson. "He had a dream that he wanted to be a BMX rider and through hard work and perseverance, he made it happen. It made me feel inspired to hear how he did it. My goal is to be successful in life, and because of his example, I believe I can accomplish it."

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