Young motocrossers shift into high gear

The young motocross riders with their bikes and awards, (left to right) Zackariah Loudenburg, Stephen Romero, Nakai Box, and Shyla Cloud.
Nakai Box rides a quad bike in the Mini quad 4-6 age group, he is the only one in the group racing a quad.
Parents stand in support of their young athletes, helping them travel to weekly practice afterschool and race events across the Southwest.
Shyla Cloud shreds the dirt track on her 50cc motorcycle.
The young riders come together for practice every Wednesday after school.
Zackariah Loudenburg proudly displays his motocross trophies.
The young kids compete in Arenacross, an indoor race circuit.
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum
Courtesy of Mandy Naranjo
Courtesy of Mandy Naranjo

A team of local motocross riders, comprised of Southern Ute tribal members, started out riding just for fun, but quickly advanced to competing in motocross races all across the Southwest. The young riders, age five to seven, include: Zackariah Loudenburg, Stephen Romero, Nakai Box, and Shyla Cloud.

“We are hoping to get more kids involved,” said Dawnnet Naranjo, mother of Stephen Romero, “We are like a big motocross family.”

The young athletes ride smaller 50cc class bikes, brands ranging from Cobra, KTM and Yamaha. In their competitions, they race in the age class of 4-6, Outlaw or Open class age 4-9 years old.

The kids are learning skills, which include basic mechanics and operation of their bikes.

Nakai Box, is the only one in the group who rides a Quad in the Mini-quad 4-6 age group. This is Nakai’s first year racing.

Like any other sport, these young riders look up to professional riders of this generation, such names as Ken Roczen from Germany, Geoff Gaskin from Canada, and Eli Tomac, who hails from Cortez, Colo.

The parents see this as an opportunity to get kids into other sports, expanding beyond the traditional school related team sport. It’s also a year around activity, since the young riders can ride and compete in Arenacross during the winter months.

“Their ultimate goal for this year is to be one of the top 40 riders in each of their classes to qualify and attend the Loretta Lynn’s Amateur National in Hurricane Mills, Tenn. July 31- Aug. 5,” said Mandy Naranjo, mother of Zackariah.

“The kids are motivating us,” said Dawnnet Naranjo.

The young group practices every Wednesday after school.

Jared Carel, stepfather of Shyla Cloud, explained that it would be easier for the kids to all get together and practice if there were a dirt track closer to Ignacio. The nearest racetrack for regular practices is in Aztec, N.M. – nearly an hour’s drive south of Ignacio.

“I’m trying to get a track built … we have tons of support, but nowhere to ride,” Carel said.

To help out the kids, Darren Loudenburg, Zachariah’s father, has been maintaining a small dirt track near his home off of County Road 521 where the kids regularly meet to ride their bikes.

The motocross families travel together in a convoy; each with their own trucks and bikes, hotel rooms and fuel costs being the most expensive aspect of the sport.

“In the near future we will be looking for sponsors to help get these little racers to attend their qualifying regionals,” Mandy Naranjo said.

Races and events in the past year have taken them to Loveland, Denver, Albuquerque, N.M., and Amarillo, Texas.

“Plans are to qualify and attend three of the eight Regionals held in the United States: The Northwest Regional in Washougal, Wash. May 26-28; The Midwest Regional in Rancho Cordova, Calif. June 2-4 and Southwest Regional in Pala, Calif. June 9-11,” said Mandy Naranjo.

Their next race will be held in Moriarty, N.M. on March 18-19.

“We would like to invite anyone who is interested in getting into the sport of motocross racing or free riding that have any questions to feel free to talk to any of us parents,” said Mandy Naranjo. “We would love to see more kids and adults enjoying this wonderful sport whether it be racing or recreational; there is a place for everyone.”

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