Hobby becomes aspiration, requires consistent practice
Freshman Tanner McKeand practices motocross at a local track in order to refine his skills and prepare for competitions.
Many teens find refuge in after-school activities ranging from shopping to jogging. However, in August of 2009, freshman Tanner McKeand sparked an enthusiasm for a less typical activity: motocross.
Prior to this, McKeand spent his time on scooters and bikes, which set the stage for his quad and motocross interests.
"I think my sport is awesome only because God gave me the passion," McKeand said. "If motocross isn't your God-given passion, then you can never understand the love for the sport."
When McKeand turned 4, he received his first bicycle. When he was 10, he became interested in quads and dirt bikes. Then, at age 12, he received his first real motor vehicle, a quad.
Even after years of riding, McKeand finds new aspects of the sport to appreciate.
"I'm still interested in motocross because it just seems to get better and better," McKeand said. "The possibilities in the sport are endless. Every day skill levels and ideas get better."
At the beginning of McKeand's motocross career, he says he did not enjoy the activity because he did not have a deep understanding of it. However, when McKeand learned more about motocross, he altogether left quads and switched to riding dirt bikes.
"I didn't like it at first, but I began to fall in love with motocross about a year after I had bought the bike," McKeand said. "This summer marks my first full year of motocross riding."
"My very first time at a real track practice was amazing. There was nothing like getting out on the big track and flying through the air." --Tanner McKeand, '14
When he rides motocross, McKeand enjoys the company of his friends. Through this, he is able to experience camaraderie in addition to introducing newcomers to the activity.
"I have a growing group of friends that I ride with," McKeand said. "Generally, I try to meet up with different friends every time I ride. I like to bring my friends that have never tried the sport along with us. So far, every new friend I've brought has loved it."
McKeand rides about once or twice a week, for roughly five hours each time. His passion for riding compels him to practice longer to improve his skills. Eventually, he hopes to participate in races, but for now only practices at local tracks, such as the Tulare MX Cycle Park and Hanford Fairgrounds in Hanford.
Despite the risk of injury associated with motocross, McKeand says the adrenaline rush and excitement of the sport compel him to continue riding.
"My very first time at a real track, practice was amazing," McKeand said. "The smell of gas and the first sight of the track was exciting. There was nothing like getting out on the big track and flying through the air. I will compete in my first race soon, but I don't know when or where it will happen, but I think I'm ready."
Professional racers such as Travis Pastrana, Ricky Carmichael, Ryan Dungey and Trey Canard have influenced McKeand's interest in the sport. Their talent is an example of motocross's excellence, he says.
"They all really inspire me and remind me how awesome our sport is," McKeand said. "While I do not know them on a personal level, by watching interviews, movies and reading articles, I can know the general character of a pro. I get inspiration from all the pros because they're an example of what is possible in the sport. They set the standard."
At local tracks, McKeand participates in the mini class composed of students age 3 and older.
Despite the regular falls, he has grown accustomed to tumbles, and considers it a common trait of the sport. A couple of months ago, McKeand experienced his worst wreck when a child fell on the landing of a jump.
"Someone else had also hit him and fallen," McKeand said. "I came directly down onto the little kid's bike, jumping off my bike and landing about 10 feet from the wreckage, and thankfully the other person that had fallen had quickly gotten up to remove herself and her bike."
Although motocross is currently a hobby for McKeand, he dreams of it becoming a professional pursuit for him. The many aspects of the activity keep him engaged and compel him to continue.
"I haven't decided if I will go pro or not, but that would definitely be my dream," McKeand said. "I have a long way to go if I am to reach that goal, having to overcome my fears and possible accidents along the way. The world of professional motocross is an intense, rough sport. It is also the most amazing, fun thing I've ever done."
For more student profiles, read the Jan. 25 article, Norwegian vacation educates eighth grader.