Young racer seeks motocross memories

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

Published:

 

CAMAS -- It is the destination of choice for so many amateur motocross riders, but it sounds more like a country music festival.

You going to Loretta Lynn's?

A 15-year-old from Camas is about to be on his way.

The AMA Amateur National Motocross Championships are held each year at Loretta Lynn's Ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tenn.

Alex Torres earned one of the 1,386 positions for the largest amateur motocross event in the world, which will run from July 28 through Aug. 3. More than 20,000 riders began the qualifying process.

"It's a big accomplishment just to make it there," Torres said. "Already going there is making me super happy."

The Loretta Lynn event prides itself on being the proving ground for the sport. This week, the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships roll into Clark County for the 33rd Washougal National. Many of the professionals scheduled to race Saturday competed at the Loretta Lynn Ranch when they were amateurs.

Torres looks up to the professionals, but he does not necessarily want to do this for a living. He understands the math of reality, and he is not an all-or-nothing kind of athlete banking on a professional motocross career. The sophomore-to-be plays football for Camas High School. He wants to compete in track and field next spring.

"Only about the top 10 riders really make a good living off it. For now, it's just a fun sport," Torres said. "I'm not looking at this as a full-time job. My plan is to go to college after high school and have motocross as a hobby going on."

Making money out of motocross is not the point for the Torres family. It is about making memories.

"People ask me, 'What's the point of motocross? You're never going to get anywhere with it.' " Torres said. "Motocross riders are very fit. They're physical, and they're healthy. It's one of the hardest sports in the world, and it's the funnest sport in the world to me. And not a lot of people get to do it."

Jose Torres has always enjoyed motor sports. He helped his son get started with a go-kart when Alex was 5. When it became time for Alex to learn how to shift, Jose figured a mini-bike would be easier to master. As soon as Alex, then 8, got on the bike, he was hooked.

"He started racing within a month," Jose said.

As Alex grew, so did the machines he was riding. These days, he goes with a 250cc bike and he will be riding in the 250-C division (The C stands for junior) in Tennessee. It will be a three-moto format -- one per day -- with the overall standings determined by a points system for each finishing position.

"To get top 10 or top five would be amazing. It would be crazy," Alex Torres said.

Actually, this trip to Tennessee seems a little wild, and a bit unexpected, for the family.

A year ago, Torres never dreamed he would be in this position. He had stopped performing to his own lofty expectations, and he had started questioning his ability. Coming back from a broken collarbone, he never seriously considered quitting motocross altogether, but he wondered if he should stop racing competitively.

Things started clicking again last fall.

"I just kind of figured it out myself," Alex said. "I changed my mindset, and I started going a lot faster."

Torres now has a personal trainer, working out 3-4 times a week. He has always been good about his diet, but now he is even more aware of the choices he makes when he eats.

It is all about going faster.

Still, there are a lot of amateurs taking this sport seriously. The competition is intense. He struggled in an early qualifier for the Loretta Lynn event, then made the most of his final opportunities. In regionals, held at Washougal, he had to finish fourth or better to make it. He took third.

"That was the best feeling I've ever felt," Torres said. "All the stress was gone."

Torres will not be riding this week during the amateur races prior to the Washougal National. The family is leaving this weekend for Tennessee.

Traveling has its benefits, too. Jose and Jill take their daughter Grace, 9, to many of Alex's events.

"It's become a big family sport for us," Jose Torres said. "I appreciate all the time I get to spend with them. We've essentially become a motocross family. His team is the Torres family."

No one in the family knows how far this ride will last. Alex said if he does well in Tennessee, perhaps there will be a bigger future in the sport. But he has already reached his goal, just making it to Loretta Lynn's.

Remember, he has other things going on in his life, too.

"I can do other sports and be one of the top 40 riders in my class in the nation in motocross," Alex Torres said.

None of his classmates at Camas High School can make such a claim.