MEDINA — Nicholas Walkuski has never looked at the Medina County Fair as just something to do to pass the time during the dog days of summer.
A 25-year-old resident of Sharon Township and employee of Hinckley Roofing, the 2003 Highland graduate holds the event in such high regard that he actually lost sleep over it last year.
A member of the National Guard, Walkuski broke a 17-year string of racing at the event when he was called to service in Iraq in 2009.
That didn’t matter as he ignored the eight-hour time difference to call friends on race night of last year’s fair to get up-to-the minute results.
“It’s hard to explain. This is my home,” Walkuski said. “I just love it here. It’s a love that started back in 1992 when I was 7 years old.”
Walkuski was back at the track Tuesday and showed 24 months worth of dust didn’t matter as he routinely kicked up dirt in the face of his competitors, winning the Woodsman Quad and Extra Quad.
Riders are only allowed to enter two events, so what Walkuski did was more than impressive.
A “part-time rider, who usually only races once or twice a month,” the Sharon Center resident reached the hole first in both of his events and won easily.
“Someone asked me, why do I do it?” Walkuski said. “I told them it’s just pure adrenaline.
“You’re on that line with the guy next to you ready to take off. It’s the thrill. That’s the only way to explain it.”
As a 7-year-old, Walkuski remembers entering his first race on his Suzuki LT80.
The bug bit hard and he hasn’t been able to remove the stinger since.
Not that Walkuski minds. In fact, he’ll take a win at Medina over places like Malvern and Meadowlarks any day.
And yes, even 18 years later, the former outside linebacker for Highland still gets a case of the jitters just before he races.
“I’m always extremely nervous,” he said. “There were a lot of people from my work here and a lot of others I knew.
“I wasn’t expecting to win (both races), but it didn’t surprise me. For some reason, two firsts here mean more than winning somewhere else.”
And given any other distractions or calls to duty, Walkuski plans on coming back next year to the 166th edition of the county fair and putting his Honda four-wheeler to the test against a new crop of competitors.
“I just seem to rise up here,” he said. “I love it.”
Contact Brad Bournival at firstname.lastname@example.org.