Local racer earns spot at Motorcross National Campionship
By John Bernhardt
As the temperatures pushed past 90 degrees last week, many among us did a bit of grumbling as we slowed things down, scrambled to find some shade, or scouted out spots on the shore of some local body of water. Not Ryan Sluiter from Bovina.
The heat and stifling humidity were unanticipated training aides for the 13-year-old motocross whiz kid who has qualified to race in the 30th Annual Red Bull AMA Amateur National Motocross Championships at the legendary Loretta Lynn Ranch in scenic Hurricane Mills, Tennessee. Ryan will ride with 42 of the best racers in the country in the Super Mini 2 Class for teens 13 to 16 years of age at the Championships. Sluiter will make his run for a national title during a week of racing in Tennessee that runs from August 1 through 6.
The heat is on
The July heat wave was a training bonanza for Sluiter. The Amateur National Championships are the only racing event held at the Loretta Lynn Ranch each year. The scorching southern, summer Tennessee heat (temperatures average 95 degrees with 100 percent humidity) provide as much of a challenge for racers who earn spots in the finals at the Northeast Qualifiers as their racing competitors. Few northeastern athletes are prepared for the sweltering heat and stifling air they encounter. That’s why Sluiter embraced the recent heat wave with more than a smile.
To prepare for his ordeal, Sluiter dresses in long johns topped by a heavy sweat suit and flies around one of three local tracks in 30-minute practice blocks that resemble the three 25-minute moto ordeals he will face at the national championships. Sluiter practices two or more hours, three or four nights a week during most months in the spring and summer.
Ryan’s ascent to the national championship level is the result of a long sojourn in motocross racing. Sluiter, who attends South Kortright Central School, has been riding since he was seven years old.
Support is needed
Racers who reach the highest national level of amateur motocross racing require all kinds of support. Sponsors such as Klingers Power Sports and Kawasaki Team Green help fuel the mechanical and technical side of Ryan’s efforts. Chasing your riding dreams also demands huge sacrifices from your family. Ryan’s parents, Matt and Dana, and his sister, Tara, have been there for him every step of the way, taxiing him to and from practice sites and for several years spending almost every weekend during the good weather season at motocross facilities throughout the Northeast where Ryan competes.
Reaching the nationals has been a goal of Ryan’s for several years. Getting there wasn’t easy. Sluiter is one of over 25,000 racers who spent the last four months vying for positions in 52 area qualifying races and 12 regional championship races across the country. That racing marathon includes 33 racing classes for the 1,386 available gates at the finals. Less than five percent of the area qualifier entrees actually qualify for the national championship event.
Top riders in the Super Mini 2 class took part in six Northeast Region qualifiers with 42 racers competing at each event. The top seven finishers from each qualifier moved on to the Northeast Regional to compete to try and become one of the fastest seven riders to qualify to race in Tennessee.
Ryan raced in a qualifier in Winchester, New Hampshire, finishing second. Sluiter’s lofty finish placed him in the Northeast Regional held at the Broome-Tioga Sports Center in Binghamton. A third place finish there has Ryan packing his bags and preparing for the big dance in Tennessee.
The championship track is built on a section of Loretta Lynn’s Ranch and Campground in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee. The course contains a variety of jumps, corners, and other obstacles designed to test the skills and stamina of the most skilled racers.
Tennessee race site
The Loretta Lynn Ranch is Loretta’s plantation home, ranch and western town, set in the roiling hills of Tennessee. The ranch includes a complete full service RV park, log cabin rentals, a swimming pool, paddle boats, canoeing, a grist mill museum, food service facilities, Loretta’s Fan and Doll Museum, and a recording studio and concert pavilion. Racers will tour Loretta’s 18,000-foot “Coal Miner’s Daughter Museum” during their stay.
The AMA Amateur National Championships are a significant athletic event. Most of today’s top professional motocross and Supercross stars including Ricky Carmichael, James Stewart, Travis Pastrana, Jeremy McGrathand and Ryan Villopota, won championships at Loretta Lynn’s.
The race is so prestigious that last summer, teenage stars Dean Wilson, from California, and Eli Tomac, from Colorado, were awarded premier professional contracts for the following racing season.
“The Amateur National at Loretta Lynn’s is the event every amateur motocross racer in America wants to compete in,” said Event Director Tim Cotter. “A win at the Amateur Nationals gives a rider instant national notoriety and can serve as a springboard to a lucrative professional motocross career.”
Ryan is the son of Matt and Dana Sluiter of Bovina and the grandson of Doug and Marlene Sluiter of Andes.