Sarabia pushes through, takes back BMX title
Cherokee Nation citizen Payton Sarabia poses with her Southwest United States Regionals Gold Cup Final trophy after her win in October. Sarabia, 10, has been competing in BMX since she was almost 3. COURTESY
BULLHEAD CITY, Ariz. – As she hones her BMX skills, Cherokee Nation citizen Payton Sarabia’s latest win in the Southwest United States Regionals Gold Cup Final was a comeback from the previous year when she lost the competition.
The 10-year-old, who has been racing since she was almost 3, took her loss as a time to train and come back for the title in 2020.
“Last year when I lost it, I was used to winning it and I thought I was never going to lose it until they announced her for number one,” Payton said. “This year, I was so determined, I got it back and it felt like amazing but I didn’t want to overreact.”
Payton’s mother, Priscilla, said Payton’s first time losing a title lit a “fire” in her and made her push her skills.
“She wanted to train harder and push harder and be the best she could be,” Priscilla said. “Then, she trained all year long and she went out there and it was awesome because the same rider who got her on the tiebreaker last year showed up this year and Payton beat her all three days in finals. So it was a huge accomplishment for her.”
Payton said after winning the title, the previous winner gave back the gold cup side plate that attaches to the bike.
“This year, once I won it…the dad and the daughter came over and the dad started taking off her side plate. And the little girl goes, ‘No, let me take it off.’ So she took it off and handed to me and said, ‘Don’t worry. We’ll fight for it next year.’ Now I have that on my bike,” said Payton.
Priscilla said although Payton won, she made sure her opponent was “OK.”
“Before she got her own trophy, she went and checked on the little girl that had won it last year to make sure she was OK,” she said. “I thought that was kinds of cool that Payton had did that.”
Some say racing is in Payton’s blood, as she has been competing in BMX just months before her third birthday.
“She initially started on a strider bike, which is a bike that basically the rider runs with, with no pedals and they race that way,” said Priscilla. “As they move through the ranks they move on to pedals bikes. By the time she was 3, she was on a pedal bike and at 5 years old she won her first state championship.”
While she started young, she never let age factor into her dedication. And this year, Payton won the Arizona State Finals for the sixth consecutive year.
“To this day, she has not lost that championship,” Priscilla said. “Every year she has to do a minimum of four qualifiers in the state against other top riders in the state and then you accumulate points based on your standing and then the top riders go to the state finals and kind of battle it out to see who gets the overall. And all six of those years it has been Payton, which has been awesome.”
Priscilla said Payton began competing in the regional gold cup “a couple of years” after winning state. “Ever since her first gold cup regional she placed podium. Her first year she ended up with a third, and after that she has held the number one since in region, which is the whole southwest United States. She’s even went to multiple regions to compete just to see how she would stand and she’s won south central, she’s won southwest. She’s also held number one in her own region as well since they changed the rules that you can’t compete in multiple (regions).”
Payton rides with the Tuff Girlz Foundation team, all while wearing her signature purple tutu.
“My nickname is the ‘Purple Pickle Flyin TUTU.’ I got it when I was 2 and a half. I would not ride without a tutu. At that point I loved dance way more than BMX,” she said.
When not training or competing, Payton spends time dancing, all while being a “straight A” student. Her advice for others wanting to get into a sport such as BMX is to “focus.”
“When you ride, you can’t focus on losing. You have to focus on what you’re going to do to stay in front,” she said.