A year ago, Gavin Abboud still used training wheels on his bicycle. This week, the 5-year-old boy from Poca will race in one of the most highly regarded amateur motocross races in the nation. “He’s worked really hard for this, but he loves it,” said Nicole Abboud, Gavin’s mother. “Anybody that races amateur, this is the biggest event that they can do.”
Gavin will compete in The Rocky Mountain ATV/MC AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship at Loretta Lynn Ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee.
For the AMA national championship, about 20,000 riders vie for a spot in the competition, while only 1,500 end up making the cut. To earn a spot, competitors must place at regional qualifiers across the nation, and then they can travel to Loretta Lynn to compete for a title held by some of the biggest names in motocross racing.
Gavin began racing motocross about a year ago, when he was 4 years old. In the last 12 months it’s become a part of his daily life. Abboud said her son practices hours each week and thrives with the competition.
Gavin qualified for the championship in a race earlier in the summer. He finished third overall, the award for which was being able to participate in the national event. Now, he is one of 42 other children in his age group to compete for the national amateur title at Loretta Lynn Ranch.
“It wasn’t too long ago that he got his first bike, and now it’s almost unbelievable that this is where we are,” Abboud said. “It makes us so incredibly proud to watch him succeed at this.”
Because of his birth date and the cutoff dates for age groups in the motocross league, Gavin competes with many kids older than him, Abboud said. He competes against 7- and 8-year-olds who have a couple more years of experience under their belts.
“A lot of these kids started on smaller bikes and worked their way up, but not Gavin — he went straight in,” Abboud said. “A lot of them are bigger, more experienced, but he’s fast, and he knows it, I think.”
Gavin isn’t fazed by the competition, Abboud said — even though it’s scary sometimes. He never says no when it comes to trying something new and challenging.
“There’s really no stopping him,” Abboud said. “He’s fearless, honestly.”
Abboud said motocross racing runs in their family, as Gavin’s father used to race and is able to use his son’s training and practices to bond with him in a different way.
“His dad is so happy; he loves it,” Abboud said. “For Gavin, this is in his blood a little bit.”
As a mother, Abboud said it can be a bit frightening to watch her son take on jumps taller than him and rigorous trails with sharp turns, all while trying to prevent any injury. The family takes every precaution possible to protect Gavin from any sort of harm.
Abboud said anytime Gavin falls or they notice a scratch in his helmet or protective gear, they immediately go out and buy new pieces so there isn’t the slightest risk of it giving out on his next crash.
“You’re scared — really scared sometimes. It’s the greatest time of your life, watching your kid have so much fun, but it’s also the worst,” Abboud said. “When he started racing, he’d get lapped, and I just wanted him to catch up to the other kids. He’s surpassed that, and we’re amazed and incredibly proud.”
Riding along with Gavin this week will be another West Virginian, 7-year-old Ryder Andruzis.
Matt Andruzis, Ryder’s father, said the Charleston second-grader has been training for this race for months, taking on various qualifiers and competitions across the East Coast so he could qualify for the national competition at Lorretta Lynn.
“He’s worked really hard to get here especially since he just started racing competitively last summer,” Andruzis said.
Even more impressive, Andruzis said, is that about a year ago, Ryder had trouble even clearing a track, stumbling in his riding, but never giving up.
For Andruzis, it’s important to tell Ryder that no matter what happens, he gets to decide how to feel and react to how a competition turns out.
“He really loves it, and we don’t push him,” Andruzis said. “It’s an independent sport, if he wins or loses it’s on him, and he knows that.”
For Ryder, though, every competition is a chance to win, Andruzis said. When he set’s his mind on something, there is no chance of him backing down.
“He’s just a wild kid — and he’s fast,” Andruzis said. “He’s one of the younger kids but he’s not afraid to take a chance. That’s one of the things that keeps him at the front of the class — he does not slow down.”
While riding smoothly was a bit challenging for Ryder a year ago, Andruzis said that’s nearly impossible to notice today.
“Then, he could barely make it around the track, but he just kept going. He’s progressed so much, so quick,” Andruzis said. “He’s hopped right into it, and now he’s one of the front-runners.”