He may seem a bit young to be inducted in the Gloucester Sports Awards Hall of Fame, but Mitch Kellner packed a fair bit into an early career.
For Mitch, motorcycle riding was a family affair with his parents and siblings all known for riding on their Barrington property. He was the youngest of three, with his older brother Luke taking it upon himself to teach his baby brother to ride. Under the watchful eye of his mother, a seven-year-old Luke popped a three-year-old Mitch on a Peewee 50.
"He put me on it and pushed me down the hill," Mitch laughed. "I had a few crashes and near misses. I ran into the trampoline and coat hangered myself."
But despite the tumbles, Mitch fell in love with the adrenaline rush and the excitement that comes with riding off road.
"It's a form of mediation. A bit of a break from thinking about all the other things going on in life," Mitch said. "You have to concentrate on riding."
In the early days, Mitch started out with the Hastings Valley Moto Cross Club, where in 2004, he was named club champion, a title he retained in 2005 and 2006.
According to Mitch, it was after attending an off-road (enduro) event in Port Macquarie that he changed gears.
"I really enjoyed the atmosphere and made some good friends," he said. "It was a little more relaxed and was a good family environment."
In 2006, Mitch added the NSW Off Road Championship title to his list of achievements. After placing second in his division at the Australian Off Road Championships (AORC) in 2008, Mitch took out the title the following year. That win, along with titles in NSW Championships in Sprint, Cross Country and Enduro, saw Mitch named Gloucester Sport Star of the Year for 2009.
It's a form of mediation. A bit of a break from thinking about all the other things going on in life.Mitch Kellner
His success continued in 2010, when he not only moved up an age group, but he progressed from a 85cc large wheel bike to a 250cc machine and once again took out the AORC title and the NSW Championships in Sprint, Cross Country and Enduro, as well as being named Australasian Dirt Bike Magazine Readers' Choice Junior Rider of the Year.
He repeated this success in 2011, again being named sports star of the year, before progressing into the big league, competing as a senior.
In 2012, Mitch competed in the first round of the Pro E1 Australian Championships in Dungog, finishing fourth.
"I came home from that in a good position," Mitch recalled, but things were about to change. "I went riding with my family at my uncle's place in Gloucester. I went over a little bump and knocked my sideways and I broke my collarbone."
Mitch was flown to John Hunter Hospital where a big plate was inserted across his collarbone secured by 12 screws.
But it wasn't enough to stop him from riding, so after recovering, he went to Young to race.
"In the middle of the race I crashed and broke my hand. I still finished fourth," he laughed. "It was painful but the adrenaline helped a lot."
But the injury saw him in a brace for a few months which caused more delays in his competing schedule.
His dad had encouraged him to take on a trade to ensure he had something to fall back on, so he took up cabinet making and retired from racing.
"I could probably return to the sport, but I grew out of it," Mitch said. "There is more to life that racing."
Winning his first AORC title was one of Mitch's fondest memories.
"I never thought I would compete let alone win at that level. Not just winning a round but the whole thing," he said. "I only lost two races. It's something I'll always remember."
Mitch returned to the Gloucester Sports Star Awards this year but this time, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
His family was with him as he accepted the honour at the awards presentation at Gloucester Soldiers Club.