Our troubled youth (class)

Seehorse Five Hun encourages new riders

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Jesse Ryan riding hard.

Jesse Ryan was right at the front of the pack all day. He ended up fourth overall. — Photo by Jim Muir

In 2012, just two years ago, there were 46 riders entered in the youth class over the eight-round Vancouver Island series.

About 10 of them where mainlanders who just showed up for Nanaimo Amateur day, but still, that leaves 36 youth riders that attended one or more VIMX/CMRC races. Most rounds had around 15 riders.

This year, after three rounds, we had six riders in the standings (plus one who is over 25, not that it matters), and the most riders at one event so far is four (which included the one over-age rider, not that it matters).

Traditionally the highest turnout is at the start of the season. Ouch.

I started the Seehorse 5 Hun to put a little cash incentive into this class, and I’m grateful to SG Power, RidersWest Magazine and VIMX for indulging me in my little scheme.

I love the Youth class. It’s the Junior A of motocross. This is where our future stars are bred.

The first round of the Seehorse Five Hun in Campbell River seemed to liven things up in the Youth class a bit. Rider attendance was more than triple what it has been at the first few rounds. Of course there were only three riders at the first events.

Several riders, including the winner,  made their first VIMX/CMRC appearance of the year, a couple mainlanders made the trek over to the island, and even a few fast juniors got into the action.

In the end 11 riders signed up as opposed to the two or three we’ve been seeing. The Youth class season standings now list 16 riders instead of six. It’s a start.

Graham Scott tops youth

Ironically it was SG Power rider Graham Scott who walked off with the first place cash at the event sponsored by SG Power.

Even more conspicuous was the fact that Scott, number 252, walked off with exactly $252 dollars! Well done Graham!

It really hit me this weekend how far this kid has come in just a few years. He is leagues ahead of many riders who beat him in junior, and now, along with Ryan Lalonde, looks to be our hottest young pro prospect on the island. To top it all off, he’s a great kid. I really hope he and Lalonde have successful national races when they fire up in two weeks. Both of these kids are great ambassadors for the sport.

Graham Scott holding up his $252 that he won.

Graham Scott, No. 252, somewhat reluctantly flashes his $252 for me. He's talented and modest. — Photo by Jim Muir

Second place in the Youth class was a rider who should be well known to B.C. motocross fans. Wyatt Waddell was the national junior champion last year and is just working to get into top form in time for the nationals, which he will try to qualify for as a first year intermediate.

Third place went to Bryce Currie, who was fluid and speedy all weekend. This kid has great form.

Wyatt Waddell on a corner.

It was great to see Wyatt Waddell against our island intermediates. Abernethy beat him in the first moto, but Waddell still ended up top Intermediate. — Photo by Jim Muir

Jesse Ryan battled up near the front all day and ended up fourth overall.

Bruce Currie flying through the air on his bike.

Bryce Currie was fluid and fast...and he didn't get a flat. He was third overall. — Photo by Jim Muir

Tyler Neil took the last of the money in fifth place.

It was great seeing a few junior riders out in the Youth class, checking out where the pace was at. It really can only help these riders to get a feel for what’s possible on a motocross bike.

Jason Abernethy and Joe Nikirk both had a podium finish in one moto and a flat tire in the other. Bummer, as both looked good to earn some cash. On the bright side, they can both try again next weekend in Port McNeill.

Injured youth

It was unfortunate that Dylan Delaplace, who came over from the mainland to race, left the track early in the first moto with a reported ankle injury.

Aside from the financial difficulties I have written about that often overcome these young riders, injury is another reason the youth ranks have thinned out so dramatically recently.

Not only are a lot of riders injured currently, but injury is a common occurrence among riders going this fast. Almost every rider at this level has one or more nagging injuries, and spends at least six weeks a year with some appendage wrapped in plaster. And often the crashes are more severe due to the higher speeds these kids are maintaining and higher altitudes they are reaching.

In addition to the numerous injuries a rider may personally sustain, there is also the residual damage done by being witness to a peer’s pain and suffering. This is a very real contributor to riders' reticence to race. Riders in this age group are finally old enough to be aware of the consequences of a major accident, and when they see a friend and racing peer in the hospital sleeping off a coma, or having pins put in a shattered limb, they can’t help but lose a little of their enthusiasm for racing.

I believe the severe injuries suffered over the past few years by local fast guys Ross Sherman and Blaine Morrow have dampened the enthusiasm of some of the racers who grew up racing against these two well-liked riders. I think it’s impossible to see a friend and peer suffer these kinds of severe traumas and not have at least a fleeting doubt about whether it’s worth it.

As far as safety goes, Vancouver Island currently has the best track medic and crew that I have seen at an amateur race. Steve Sulyok showed up on the scene a year or two ago as the father of a new 50cc racer, and his paramedic skills became instantly known to all. He is the best we’ve seen. He is very good at his job, super enthusiastic, quick to respond, and best of all his son races, so he knows how it feels to be the parent of an injured child.

Steve has put together a team and now attends all VIMX/CMRC races as the lead medic of a very professional team. As far as emergency medical coverage goes, I couldn’t feel safer letting my son race than I currently do.

Burnt out youth

Finally, I think last year’s long, grueling 16 race series (or whatever it was) may have worn away at some riders' resolve. 

Last year’s series didn’t start off too bad. The first half of the series had a youth class sign-up average of about a dozen riders, with the second event having a high of 17 riders, but by the second half of the series we were down to three to six riders at each event. 

I think this is largely due to my primary point about finances and life situations, but it is also related to the fact that would-be pros tend to be more focused on the spring races leading up to nationals.

Very few could make it to enough rounds to contend for the title, and as such the importance of the title diminished, and a vicious circle spiralled our youth class virtually out of existence. After nationals had passed there was little incentive for fast guys to spend the money to race. I think this year’s eight round championship is more manageable for riders, and would serve as a good preparation series for the nationals…if it had more riders.

Now that we are at the bottom of the youth ridership spiral, however, we need to jump start the class again.

Hopefully the Seehorse 5 Hun will help get riders out again, and maybe start a trend.

If we had a youth class that paid legit cash prizes on a consistent basis, I’d be willing to bet we’d develop a much stronger turnout. You need a strong turnout in the youth category to develop fast riders. We have a slew of fast young riders coming up through the ranks at the moment. I hope we can give them something worth striving towards.

Thanks again to SG Power, RidersWest Magazine and VIMX for supporting our fast young men and the Seehorse 5 Hun.

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