Seneca Valley Motocross Team thrives on adrenaline
Some consider motocross the most physically demanding sport, but for five Seneca Valley students, it's not the demands that draw them to the action.
Austin Lawson, Adam Herb, Spencer Wagner, Cody Andreas and Tyler Tuite make up a group known as the Seneca Valley Motocross Team, and although the team is not officially affiliated with the school, this group thrives on the excitement and adrenaline rush that comes with the fast-paced competition.
The team has been together for a season and a half, and, in 2013, the five members of the team combined for 25 end-of-year championship awards, earned by their individual efforts in a variety of motocross races.
While it is individual effort that is needed to score points, the team aspect comes into play once a week at Switchback Raceway on Route 8 in Butler.
“We ride the outdoor track most of the year, but there is an indoor track for us in the winter,” said Lawson, who has been riding for eight years.
“We also spend time riding stationary bikes to work our legs and do bench presses and pull-ups for strength.
“The tracks are brutal, and you are moving the entire time.”
Each race, or moto, can last five to seven minutes. Motos at the Mini O's can last up to 20 minutes; at the professional level, a moto can last 30 minutes plus two laps.
To win a race, the average finish of two races is how the winner is determined. Like golf, the lowest score wins.
“You are pushing yourself to the brink,” Lawson said. “You are pushing yourself as hard as you can as fast as you can.”
While the physical part is a lot of training and riding to maintain racing shape, the team aspect comes into play during practice.
That's when the Seneca Valley riders race each other and will offer pointers to one another to correct any errors.
“There are a million different techniques,” Wagner said. “I was training with a pro once, and I watched him go off the jumps. I watched his foot placement and how he hit the corners. All those little things tally up and we (the team) share that. We are best friends.”
Wagner was racing for three years before Lawson got him involved in motocross.
The physical aspect is only half of the task, as Lawson pointed out the mental aspect is not as obvious to those who are not close to the sport.
“You have to be able to look ahead to turns before you get to them,” Lawson said.
Put the two aspects together and then staying consistent is the key, according to Wagner.
“We race all over,” Wagner said.
“We do local series, the Competitive Riders of America and PMAX. The ultimate goal is to get to the Loretta Lynn qualifiers (and advance to the AMA National Motocross Championship at the Loretta Lynn Ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tenn.). That is the Super Bowl for us.”
While the chase is on for the team, Tuite will begin the run as he recovers from a broken leg, one of the risks of the sport.
“I crashed back in August and broke my tibia and fibula,” Tuite said.
“I had three months of physical therapy, but I expect to be back on my bike in a few weeks.”
Tuite has been competing for a only short time, but the key to getting good is getting past the fear aspect of the fast-paced race.
“Once you get past the fear, that mental block, your riding skill will come,” Tuite said.
“I want to get back to where I was before the injury and get to the Loretta Lynns. I have not had a long career, but it has been great.”
In addition to continued improvement, the Seneca Valley team would love to grow and cultivate more of an interest, and gain new members and even be a recognized team by the school.
The biggest obstacles on that front are the “fear factor” of the sport itself as well as the cost.
Wagner said motocross bikes cost $8,000 to $9,000 or more, and gear and parts are an ongoing expense.
“That is why sponsors are so important,” he said.
Jerry Clark is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.