BRIDGEWATER, NJ – When most people think of 4H they think of sheep, giant squash and few things more mechanical than a tractor. But for Green Brook’s Liam Curran 4H means motor oil, loose clutches and speeding around a dirt track in his No. 85 go-kart.
This week Curran completes six years of participating in the Somerset County 4H Go-Kart Club where kids from nine and a half to nineteen learn about lots more than agriculture. He competed for the last time yesterday in time trials at the annual 4H Fair at the North Branch Park in Bridgewater, and did fairly well but did not win.
“It’s not about the trophies,” said Curran after the race. “I like coming out here, hanging with my friends, and just racing on the track.”
Even drivers who don’t put up the best times do sometimes get trophies. Curran was quick to mention the year he won the highly prized “GPS Award."
“I went the wrong way on the track, so they gave me the GPS Award,” said Curran, laughing with his mother Diana who also volunteers as a timer for the races. They display the trophy in their home.
Curran has learned more than just turning left – and how to go the right way around a track -- during his six years of go-karting. The club meets every other week during the year to learn more about the sport, which is highly regulated and organized in New Jersey. They also work on their own engines and cars, gaining engineering and other technical skills that will serve them well in life.
Members of the club also have to research a subject related to go-karting and make a five-minute presentation to the group. Jim Gano, who is the club’s adult leader along with Rob Zabarowski, says this is one of the most important parts of the club.
“For some of them it’s hard to get up in front of a crowd, but we want to encourage them,” said Gano. “Sometimes I’ll ask one of the kids to give their presentations to other groups that provide scholarships to help them afford college.”
Curran is heading off to college himself in a few weeks, attending DeSales University in the Lehigh Valley this fall. He plans to major in criminal justice as he works towards becoming a New Jersey State Trooper, an interest that also grows out of his experience with the 4H Go-Kart Club. Every time the club participates in a race a state police officer inspects the track, the vehicle safety considerations, and the control of crowds to prevent injury. This is required by state law that covers all motorized racing in the state.
“After I become a state trooper I’ll be coming back here to do the inspections,” said Curran with a smile.
But he doesn’t think he’s going to have to wait that long to get back to being involved in go-karts. He partially picked DeSales because there is a go-kart track nearby that the Go-Kart Club has raced on in the past. Curran is hoping to get a job there while he’s at school.
“I spoke to the track ranger the last time I was there, and told him I’d be applying for a job,” said Curran. “If I get the job, I’ll be able to drive as much as I want for free.”
While Curran is aging out of the program with 4H, he plans on coming back and being an adult volunteer to help other kids get into go-karting in the future. He is also an active volutneer with the Green Brook Rescue Squad.
In addition to the Go-Kart Club, the Somerset County 4H has a lot more to offer when it comes to technology. Other clubs include dirt-biking, remote control cars and planes, rocketry, scale modeling, trains and robotics.
Kids and families interested in getting involved with the Somerset County 4H for technology, agriculture or the other more than 30 clubs for youth development can learn more online or by calling (908) 526-6644.