MILLEDGEVILLE — Hayden Lavender’s passion and thrill for riding through hills, jumps and turns on a dirt track began at age 4. He has since continued to perfect his riding techniques to qualify for a spot in the largest amateur motocross race in the world now at the age of 7.
“Hayden fell in behind his brother Hunter, who also races, who is soon to be 12 years old. At first we thought he would take right to it, but Hayden didn’t really take to racing in the beginning,” said Shawn Lavender, Hayden’s father. “We took Hunter to a race in Alabama and while we were there, Hayden all of a sudden said he wanted to race and he’s been going at it ever since.”
Hayden’s family and friends began the journey to Hurricane Mills, Tenn. Thursday to support Hayden in the 32nd annual Red Bull AMA Amateur National Motocross Championships at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch, which is slated to start Monday and run through Saturday of next week. Hayden, a John Milledge Academy student, competed against more than 20,000 hopefuls from across the country to earn one of just 1,446 qualifying positions riding his 2013 blue Yamaha PW50.
“We went to Arkansas for one regional qualifier and the regional for that particular area was in Mississippi, but we didn’t get in there. We qualified for the southeast region, which earned him a spot in the nationals. This is the race that everybody wants to go to,” Shawn said. “We’ve been training in Culloden, Ga. at MotoXcompound with trainer Matt Walker a few days a week.”
The course at the national race is built on a section of country music star Loretta Lynn’s ranch and compound, containing a variety of jumps, corners and other obstacles designed to test the skills and stamina of the racers.
“The Amateur Nationals at Loretta Lynn’s is the event every motocross racer in the country wants to compete in,” said event director Tim Cotter in a press release. “A win at the Amateur Nationals gives a rider instant national notoriety and can serve as a springboard to a lucrative professional motocross career.”
Most of America’s top professional motocrossers, including James Stewart, Ricky Carmichael, Travis Pastrana and Jeremy McGrath, have won AMA Amateur National Championships at Loretta Lynn’s, states MX Sports’ website. The race is so prestigious that in 2012 it became part of the Red Bull Signature Series, airing race coverage on NBC for the first time ever. This year, the Red Bull Signature Series will air live coverage from Loretta Lynn’s on NBC for the first time.
The Lavender family held a barbecue plate sale at Century Bank on North Columbia Street last week to help raise funds for Hayden’s racing costs.
“Hayden has met a lot of good people racing. He’s looking forward to hanging out with his buddies,” Shawn said. “We’re proud of him and we’re excited for him.”
For more information about the competition, visit www.mxsports.com.
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