Camden Cruea can’t quite describe why he loves racing dirt bikes. But when he talks about it, the gleam in his eyes and smile across his 8-year-old face say it all.
“Actually, I didn’t know much about it till dad got me (a dirt bike) for my fifth birthday,” the son of Hillsboro residents Chris and Stephanie (Williamson) Cruea said. “Then I just loved – I can’t explain – I just love it.”
Recently, Camden became one of 40 youngsters internationally to qualify for the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC Amateur National Motocross Championship that will be held July 31 to Aug. 5 at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tenn.
Camden competes on a 51cc dirt bike in the 7- and 8-year-old division.
Those who qualify for the national championship receive a large ticket to the event that reads: “This ticket represents a true accomplishment in the career of any amateur motocross racer. Holding this ticket means you are among the fastest racers in the world and ready to take the next step on the #RoadToLorettas to compete at the 2017 Rocky Mountain ATV/MC AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship at Loretta Lynn Ranch. The legends in the sport of motocross have made the same sacrifices and commitments as you to qualify and compete on the hallowed grounds of Loretta Lynn Ranch, and now you have the opportunity to add your own history to the 36 years of the AMA Amateur National.
“Cherish this achievement and enjoy your journey to Hurricane Mills, Tenn. The best is yet to come…”
Camden’s journey into the world of motocross racing had a surprise start. So surprising, in fact, that the first time he and his twin brother, Payton, raced, they didn’t even know they were racing. Chris took them to an event, but told them they were only there with other riders to practice gate drops, or the start of a race. Unbeknownst to the boys though, when the gate dropped they were actually riding in their first race. It wasn’t until they were preparing for the next moto, or race, that Chris told them they had already competed in their first race.
Pretty much ever since then, Camden said, making it to Loretta Lynn’s has been his goal.
“Two years ago they went down (to Loretta Lynn’s) as alternates,” Chris said. “Everyone showed up and they didn’t get to race, but that’s what lit the fire under Cam. That’s when the light switch went off and we saw a whole different kid riding the motorcycle.”
To help him gain the strength and stamina he needs for 20-minute-plus motos, Camden now runs two miles four times a week and does lots of cardio training like pushups, sit-ups, burpees (a combination of jumping, squatting and pushups), leg lifts and ball jumps (jumping over a ball while holding a weight).
“We didn’t have to tell him. He just started doing it, and we don’t have to remind him. And he watches everything he eats,” Chris said.
Chris said that it’s Camden strength and stamina that give him an edge on the race track. It also doesn’t hurt that he weighs 79 pounds and races against kids mostly in the 50- to 60-pound range. But weighing more also means Camden has a tough time getting out fast off the starting gate. So he makes up for it with aggressiveness. He also likes a rough track with ruts in the corners.
While Camden hinted that he’d like to finish in the top 15 at the nationals, his dad has a different perspective.
“There are no expectations. He’s going down there for fun,” Chris said. “Getting there is hard enough. It’s like a marathon.”
So far this year the Crueas have raced in Illinois, Tennessee, Michigan, Kentucky and all around Ohio. In the past they’ve raced as far away as Las Vegas and Florida.
Before each race, Chris, who was also a racer in his younger days, and Camden have a routine. There’s a kiss from dad on the racing helmet, an I love you sign is exchanged, then this Chris tells him to “ride like he stole it, and have fun.”
Since they have practiced and discussed most everything that Camden might face on the track, Chris said he doesn’t get worried watching his sons race.
“I wouldn’t have him do something if I didn’t think he could do it,” Chris said.
Camden, also a straight A student at St. Mary Catholic School, said racing is so fun he can’t see himself ever giving it up.
“I cannot see myself not racing, that’s one thing for sure,” Camden said. “Maybe when I get older, like 30 or 40. But I have a long time before I have to worry about any of that.”
So what is it that keeps Camden returning to the racing track time after time, working out and watching what he eats?
“Nothing really,” he said. “I just love it. I can’t tell you how I love it. I love the competition and everything. It’s fun to do it.”
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or firstname.lastname@example.org.