November 9, 2006
Lee Co. -- Many teenagers succumb to peer group pressure, often giving in to the expectations of their friends when they really don't want to. Often, teenagers don't have the coping skills to resist, but a young girl could careless about doing what others think she should do, and proudly shows her independence.
School can bring out the best and worst in students, especially when impressionable teenagers want to fit in. School teachers see it happen much too frequently. But occasionally, teachers see a student who doesn't follow the crowd, such as Natalie Lawrence, who has a rare independent streak.
"Underneath she has a little bit of fire, a go-get attitude which is good to have," says Brian Trivette, an eighth grade teacher at Lee County Middle School.
That hidden fire flares occasionally when conditions get just right, and then watch out. "She'll run you off the track sometimes," says Morgan Clark, one of Natalie's good friends who admits she ran Natalie off the track, as well.
Morgan and Natalie raced bicycles together, competitors one minute and friends for years. "I feel pretty confident going into it," says Natalie, as she straps her helmet on and pushes her bicycle up a hill to the starting line.
Natalie Lawrence races bicycles mainly because she wants to do something different than what her friends do. "No one in school does BMX," says Natalie.
Bicycle Motocross or BMX involves seeing how fast riders can race over bumps and around sharp curves, while outwitting their competitors. "Where is the turn to pass; Where is the turn not to pass," says Natalie between racing events.
Natalie has her own cheering section. "Pedal, pedal, pedal," shouts Kim Lawrence, her mother who always encourages her. "What makes her happy makes me happy," says Kim.
And Natalie has been happy for a long time racing her heart out. Natalie rates as a veteran bicycle competitor, starting 10 years ago when she was four. She covers a track of clay and asphalt 1,200 feet long in less than a minute. "She can do it in 43 seconds if she pedals hard," says Kim, as Natalie fends off the competition, looking for the finish line. "How did you do? "Third," says Natalie after one of her three races.
"It's a lot of exercise," says Natalie who has barely enough time between races to catch her breath. "I get a little tired," says Natalie, as she pushes her bicycle to the staging area, but she loves to compete with other riders who want to cross the finish line first, just like she wants to.
She gets to travel to a lot of other states, another advantage to the sport that appeals to her. "It's a family sport," says Natalie who, along with her family, goes to competitions in Florida, South Carolina and Kentucky.
She is rated number four in the region in her classification.