The buzzing sound of the other motocross bikes in the 80cc class swallowed 13-year-old Nicole Dennis. The vibrations from the other bikes’ engines passed through her as she struggled to get her tires in the rut just behind the starting gate.
It was the third race of the season and she was still getting used to those pre-start jitters that pulse through every racers mind as they wait for the blast from the starting gun.
“Stay in control,” she said to herself as she leaned forward on the bike. “Don’t ride over your head.”
Unlike the others, Dennis rode a 100cc bike which had enough power to do 90 mph. She was just beginning to anticipate what was ahead of her on the course, and Dennis was not ready to go flying over a jump.
For most of the young competitors in the Kodiak Racing Association, this was their first year riding in an 80 cc class motocross. Having fun is their priority but so is learning everything they can about the sport.
“I got hooked watching my friends Isaac Bodi and Carl Scholl in the season’s second race,” 12-year-old Michael Miles said. “I thought it would be fun racing with them.”
Miles had an 80cc bike for a while but never did anything with it. When he go interested in racing, Gregg Levenson, who races in the 125cc class, offered Miles an old 100.
“I got the bike three days before the last race,” Miles said. “I only had enough time to practice once on the track.”
Miles hopes to start getting more time training with Bodi and Scholl.
Scholl enjoys the sport so much, he is thinking about making a career out of motocross racing.
“I hope to ride as far and as long as I can,” he said “I’ve thought of going off island to see what racing would be like in Anchorage.”
Scholl started riding dirt bikes on a whim. He was looking for something different from four wheelers. When Scholl heard about the races he was curious, so he signed up. Since then, he has spent as much time as he can learning the ins and outs of the sport.
“Starts are the most important thing,” Scholl said. “You want to be first out of the starting gate.”
Bodi, 13, agrees.
“James McLain’s clinic helped a lot with getting better starts,” he said. “You need to put your elbows up and put as much of your weight forward as you can.”
Like Scholl, Bodi plans on racing for a long time.
“When I get out on the track, I just want to go as hard as I can,” he said. “I just like being out there racing.”
Just being out there with everyone else is the reason that 11-year-old Jerrick Olson got involved in motocross.
“I love the competition and the adrenaline rush,” Olson said. “I really like getting up the speed around the corners and going over the table top jump.”
Olson started racing after watching Shawn Bundy in the 125cc class and the pros on television.
“The big bikes are fun to watch,” Olson said. “There’s lots of action and they really get high on the jumps.”
Because this is his first year, Olson is more interested in learning how to race well than racing. He plans on staying with the 80s for two years.
“When I get tall enough and experienced enough, I want to ride the 125cc and maybe 250cc bikes,” Olson said.
He wants to take his time working his way up to the big leagues.
Teddy Compton, 14, also took his time to start racing. His father bought him a pee-wee 50cc when he was eleven months old. Compton was riding around his back yard in Oregon by the time he was 2.
“I had the 50cc until I was six,” Compton said. “I got a KDX-80 when I was nine and spent my time riding trails.”
Compton currently races a CR 80 Expert his parents bought him. It has bigger wheels and bigger shocks, he said.
“I’m just learning about the new engine,” Compton said. “It has six gears rather than five.”
Steven Pillans, 6, is also spending this racing season getting acquainted with his 60cc bike. Pillans started riding because of his father, Scott, who races in the 250cc class.
“Riding is fun,” Steven said. “The most fun parts are the jumps.”
Steven’s mother Laurinda gets nervous when she watches her son approach a jump.
“My stomach rises in my mouth when he looks like he might be doing something he hasn’t done before,” she said.
However, Steven is confident in his abilities. “Riding the bike is easy,” he said. “I want to start riding big bikes some day.”
Nearing the end of the third race of the season, Steven was still speeding towards his jumps as the older riders raced for the checkered flag. Leading the pack was Isaac Bodi. He gunned his engine and flew out of the woods, landing back on the main track. He was on his way another 80cc class victory for the season.
Michael Miles was next to shoot back onto the track. In his first motocross, Miles took second place. Teddy Compton was right behind him to finish third.
The crowd continued to cheer as the group emerged from the woods and crossed the finish line.
While all the 80cc riders agreed that winning would be great, each had their own agenda on the track. Some were ready to take the checkered flag now while others were just happy being in the race.
“Besides,” Dennis said. “If you stay out there long enough, one day is going to be your victory day.”