JOHNSTOWN - Ask a three-sport athlete what his favorite sport is, and he might have a hard time answering.
Ask Troy Palmer, and you'll get a simple answer:?Racing.
The Johnstown High School senior, who's spent years playing soccer in the fall, wrestling in the winter and picking up a lacrosse stick in the spring, has a passion for racing that's unmatched by the sports he plays at Johnstown.
Johnstown’s Troy Palmer (4) looks to pass the ball during the Sir Bills’ game against Amsterdam on April 13.
The Leader-Herald/Erich Neuhaus
"I'm actually going to college for racing," Palmer said before his lacrosse practice on Friday.
Palmer will major in high performance motor sports at the University of Northwestern Ohio, which has a couple of racing teams he'd like to try to join, he said.
The program is similar to what he does now when he's working on his 602 modified sportsman racecar for Saturdays at Fonda Speedway.
"We work with motors, learning how to tune them up," he said. "Then they have a team down there where you actually work on the cars after classes and they work on the cars all week long. Kind of like the same thing I'm doing now."
What Palmer also is doing now is juggling schoolwork and athletics to go with the added responsibilities of a tuning, fixing and preparing a racecar every week.
Palmer said it's not uncommon for him to work on his car for two or three hours a day on top of school and lacrosse.
"It's get up in the morning at 5:30 a.m., go to school, go to practice, then when I'm done with practice go work on my car," Palmer said. "Do everything, every day, like that to get ready for Saturday. Every week."
As hectic as his schedule is, Palmer wouldn't change his frantic, two-sport schedule for a thing.
Racing since he was 12 years old, Palmer first raced go-karts, then moved up to slingshots at Caroga Creek.
He decided to play lacrosse with his friends during his sophomore year. After all, lacrosse is the fastest sport on two feet - and Palmer fits right in.
"He's the fastest kid on our team, and he's the toughest kid on our team," Johnstown lacrosse coach Scott Petrie said. "When I've watched him play all those sports, you can tell right away that he's an athlete."
So what did Petrie give one of his most athletic players on the team standing just 5-foot-4? The biggest stick in the game.
Palmer is a long-stick defender, responsible to harassing opponent attackers, digging up ground balls and transitioning the ball to offense. He goes up against some athletes close to a foot taller than him, but Palmer - also one of the youngest competitors at Fonda - doesn't shy away from anybody.
In Johnstown's win over Amsterdam this year, Palmer was on the receiving end of a dirty hit from Amsterdam's Ricky Gonzalez right in front of the Sir Bills' bench.
The hit looked as if it could've sent someone Palmer's size off on a stretcher. Instead, he slowly got up and dusted himself off.
It could have been a buzz-killing hit in front of his teammates, but his display of toughness, walking away from an ugly blow, provided a spark that saw the Sir Bills score two goals in the final minute to top their biggest rivals.
That never-back-down attitude trumps whatever Palmer lacks in height on the field and experience on the dirt track.
"Pretty much the biggest thing is to show them I'm just like them," he said. "I'm there to take care of my business, and just because of my height or how young I am, I'm not going to get pushed around. I'm going to be right there with them."
And he is - in every game and every race.
His racing highlights include a 75-lap feature victory in his slingshot at Caroga Creek, where he led the final 35 laps, and in just his fifth time racing at Fonda, Palmer took second in a feature among veteran racers and racetrack champions.
As on the lacrosse field, fellow competitors have taken note on the racetrack.
"I think if they look at the board and see me in the lineup, they definitely keep an eye on me and keep me in the back of their head," Palmer said. "If they know if my car is running good, I'll be up there with them."
It's a need for speed that drives Palmer, and it drove him to pursue his racing career at UNOH next fall.
But until he heads off to Ohio, he'll be racing around this week, getting ready for three lacrosse games for the Sir Bills and his No. 17 car at Fonda on Saturday.
"I love it," Palmer said about this time of year.