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Palmerton’s Rutkowitz balances BMX career with track season

Jake Rutkowitz might be a thrill-seeker, a daredevil determined to make a name for himself.

Already a decorated BMX athlete, the Palmerton freshman launched himself into the work of track and field this spring.

And as he so often has done throughout his career on the bike, Rutkowitz stuck the landing.

Rutkowitz qualified for this past weekend’s PIAA Championships in the Class 2A triple jump after a runner-up finish at districts. He also medaled in the 110 hurdles and long jump, placing fourth in both events at districts.

Whether he’s on or off the bike, Rutkowitz has hops.

He has won the last three USA BMX national titles in his age bracket.

“I just do freestyle competitions. So no vert, but it’s in a park,” he said. “I go to train in Woodward, by State College (in Centre County). And I was on the show (Camp Woodward) for two seasons for BMX.”

Rutkowitz, who has nearly 7,000 followers on Instagram (@jakerutk) has stunning clips on his page of places he’s been, tricks he’s landed and people he’s been able to meet. Episodes of his time on Woodward BMX Seasons 1 and 2 can be found on YouTube.

“I just really like the whole community,” he said. “Everyone is so nice to each other. Even when we’re competing. Everyone is always so supportive.”

Rutkowitz was on serious bikes when he was three, learned 360s when he was five and hasn’t looked back - now with about a dozen years of experience under his belt.

“The whole reason I’ve been doing BMX is because my dad (Jason) started doing it when he was a young kid, and he got me into it,” said Rutkowitz. “And I stuck with it.”

According to the website The Boardr, Rutkowitz carries an overall global ranking of 51st, a street ranking of 37th and a park rank of 44th. He is sponsored by Subrosa, Merritt, Shadow Riding Gear and Hok9.

In 2021, he placed second in the Nitro Junior Games at Chino in BMX Park and earned $1,000.

Rutkowitz competes in USA BMX events around the country. Last year’s National Championship event was in California.

Balancing his time as a student-athlete has allowed Rutkowitz to compete at a high level.

“We’ll have track practice, then I’ll go home and set up an air-bag at my house to practice tricks,” he said. “I go to Woodward on Saturday and Sunday for training. I try to ride my bike as much as I can to keep the tricks dialed.”

So, how does track compare to one of Rutkowitz’s BMX competitions?

“The adrenaline of BMX and the adrenaline of track is definitely the same,” he said. “Getting ready to go up before big races and big contests.”

At leagues, Rutkowitz was a runner-up in the long jump with a mark of 22-1. He was seeded sixth at 20-10 1/2. He was also third in the 110 hurdles at leagues.

His season ended with a 13th place finish in the triple jump at states, another example of the potential the freshman possesses.

Rutkowitz has shown tremendous versatility in all of his events during what has been a breakout season.

His future with the Bombers’ track and field team is undeniable, and there’s no question he has what it takes to make it to Shippensburg again next season.

But his career in BMX might reach even greater heights.

“I just want it to go as far as it takes me,” said Rutkowitz. “I want to take it as far as the X Games and the Olympics. If it does start to slow down, I still want to do it, and keep with it. That’s my whole life basically.”

One thing is certain: Whatever Rutkowitz does next, he won’t disappoint.

Adding up

Palmerton’s Nataly Walters earned three more state medals this past weekend to reach six for her career, and collected her third state title. After placing seventh in the long jump as a freshman and winning the long jump and triple jump as a sophomore, Walters went back-to-back with another title in the long jump this season. She was also second in the triple jump and helped the Bombers’ 400 relay team of Claire Thomas, Sarah Sabo and Erin Gombert place sixth. The group set a district and school record in the event with a 49.70. They lowered it in the prelims at states, running a 49.29 - which set an all-time area best, breaking the previous mark of 49.47 set by Jim Thorpe in 2010. Walters also owns all-time area bests in the long jump and triple jump, which she established last year.

Bombers soar

The Palmerton boys (10-1) and girls (7-4) enjoyed tremendous success throughout the season, and that continued at states. The girls finished tied for sixth in the team standings with 21 points, while the boys - who also had Ryan Burkett place third in the discus - were tied for 13th with 16 points.

’Dawgs Day

With her seventh-place finish in the 800 on Saturday, Katelynn Barthold earned the first state medal for Northern Lehigh since 2019, when both Reagan Pender (4th, AA 3200) and Zach Moyer (8th, AA high jump) stood on the podium. It was a record-setting weekend for the Bulldogs. Barthold’s time of 2:17.71 was a school record. She was also a member of the 3200 relay team along with Natalie Moffitt, Emma Heil and Mikayla Gordon that ran to a ninth-place finish in a school record time of 9:43.32. Evelina Mayak ran a 15.30 in the 100 hurdle prelims, matching her school record.

Tiger tales

A year after Faith Yost captured the state title in the high jump, Northwestern almost had another Tiger stand on the top step of the podium in the event. Junior Gavin Nelson cleared 6-6 in the event to earn his first state medal with a third-place finish. Nelson, who was 16th in the high jump at states last season, appears primed to have an even bigger senior season.


Not only did Palmerton’s Bryson Walters and Matt Machalik each collect individual medals on Saturday, but the duo also combined with Stephen Jones and Ty Sander to break a school record in the 400 relay with a 43.12 in the prelims. They followed that with a 43.01 in the finals to place fourth. They entered the event as the 10th seed. Walters also placed sixth in the 300 hurdles, while Machalik was seventh in the 100.

Rodino’s record

Marian senior Jesse Rodino hit a huge PR and broke a school record to place second in the discus at districts with a throw of 155-11, topping his previous best of 145-2 and a long-standing school record of 149-11 set by Joe Regalis in 1967. Rodino improved the mark at states, throwing 156-2 to place fourth and earn his first state medal in his final competition.

Palmerton's Jake Rutkowitz performs a trick on his bike. Rutkowitz is a BMX enthusiast and joined the Blue Bombers track and field team this season. PHOTO COURTESY OF JOSH MCELWEE/WWW.JOSHMCELWEE.COM
Palmerton's Jake Rutkowitz soars through the air on his bike. The freshman and BMX athlete also excelled this season on the Blue Bombers track and field team. PHOTO COURTESY OF JOSH MCELWEE/WWW.JOSHMCELWEE.COM