Colby Gatlin, a 9-year-old student at Eaton Elementary School, has been riding a dirt bike for about six years. For the past four, he has qualified for the Red Bull American Motorcyclist Association Amateur National Motocross Championship.
The event is held annually at the Lorreta Lynn Ranch in Hurricane Mills and is the biggest amateur motocross race in the world.
"It's a really good place to ride," Gatlin said. "It's got different terrains and the track makes its own hardness, I would say."
Gatlin's best finish at the race was last year when he came in fourth in the 7-to 8-year-old division. This year he will race in the 7-9 65cc and 7-11 65 cc race. He said his goal is to finish first.
He feels like a first-place finish is something he can accomplish having taken the top spot in March at the Ricky Carmichael Daytona Amateur Supercross Championship in Daytona Beach, Fla.
Gatlin said he has been riding and training to get ready for the event.
"I work sections and starts," he said. "I do 20-minute motos and two-lap springs, stuff like that."
The rider said the most difficult sections of the track for him are the corners and sand. "If you don't stay on the back of the bike your front end will wash out (in sand)," he said. Jumping and straightaways are his strengths.
Gatlin started riding after a friend of his father, Chris Gatlin, brought a bike over and let him try it out. Colby has been hooked since, Chris said.
"When he first started out, immediately he just took to it real well," he said. "It was like when a kid rides a bicycle for the first time. Some kids will wreck everywhere and some just jump on it and go. It looked natural. He didn't really struggle."
Riding is the sport Gatlin has gravitated toward, saying it's just a fun thing for him to do.
"It's just the enjoyment," Colby Gatlin said. "I'm really not a team-sport guy. It's just me and the dirt bike all the time, that's just what I like doing."
Chris said he is happy for the experience riding has provided Colby.
"Just travelling all over with him and getting to do something he likes that I like too," he said. "Seeing him out there, it's overwhelming, the adrenaline rush."
The championship will begin Monday and run through Aug. 3. The final day of racing will be broadcast 2-4 p.m. on NBC. A full broadcast schedule, which includes times that races will be streamed on http://www.racertv.com
, is available at http://www.mxsports.com
More than 1,000 riders across all categories will be competing at the event and more than 20,000 riders attempted to qualify.
"It might be a lot of pressure, but if you do good it's really fun," Gatlin said. "You have a blast mostly."