Born to be wild
Somerset youngster places first in motocross competition
While most of his friends are quietly riding their bicycles around the neighborhood, Grant Hecht is catching air on his high-powered motorcycle.
Even at the young age of 6, Grant has begun to master the thrilling sport of motocross racing. He's been involved in the sport since age 3 and currently owns three racing bikes.
The Somerset area youngster took first place in the District 23 American Motorcycle Association championship this fall. He competed against 90 other riders in the oil injection class for ages 4 to 6.
"I like a lot of jumps," he says of his hobby. "And I like the trophies that are getting bigger and bigger."
Grant plans to continue honing his skills, with the goal of being one of the best riders around. Grant already has a huge stash of trophies he's collected from various races in the region.
"They're in my toy room," he said. The room appears to have more trophies than toys.
Grant's parents, Larry and Sandi Hecht, said their son enjoys the competition and the thrill that comes with motocross.
Even though Grant is 10 years away from getting his driver's license, the Hechts said motocross racers start young.
"There are a lot of young kids out there," Larry said. "That's how young they start these days."
The family packs up their camper on most summer weekends and travels to tracks south of the Twin Cities for Sunday races. This past season Grant and his brother Garrett, 5, went to about 27 races. Garrett placed 13th in the district this past season. The racing season runs from April through labor Day.
"It gets to be quite a few races," Larry admits. "But we do it as a family."
The family uses two local tracks on land owned by Butch Johnson and Jeremy and Nicole Penman to practice. During the spring, summer and fall, Grant and Garrett practice two or three times a week.
"When Grant was smaller, I used to let him zip up and down the driveway and through the yard," Larry said. "Now that he goes faster, I don't let him drive in the yard because I don't want him to get wrapped around a tree."
In practice and during races, younger motocross racers often reach speeds of 35 miles per hour. It takes experience to feel comfortable riding, jumping and landing, Larry said.
This winter the family plans to travel to northern Minnesota to several indoor races at the Motodome in Staples. The family hopes to keep both their sons' riding skills at a high level through the winter.
Grant claims to have no fear of the speed at which he races nor the heights he reaches on jumps. He admits that he fell a lot when he first learned to ride a motorcycle, and he still has the occasional spill, but the risks are worth it.
"It's fun," he said.
Sandi does enough worrying for the family.
"I have mixed feeling about this. I love the sport, but at times it's very stressful," she said. "Grandma thinks we're crazy. I'm always worried about crashes, but there haven't been any broken bones."
She notes that the riders are well protected with pads, a helmet and heavy-duty boots.
Larry, a former amateur ATV racer, is the under-paid motorcycle mechanic for his sons.
He said his mechanical ability helps save the family a lot of money.
"Some families that don't know how to wrench up, I don't know how they could afford it," he said. "The bikes definitely take a lot of maintenance. They take a pounding and I spend a lot of hours in the garage just trying to keep them going."
While the sport can be expensive, Larry notes the overall cost is probably comparable with what hockey families spend during a season.
Grant will be moving to a more challenging classification for racing in 2005. The bikes he'll ride next season will be faster, but he's more than ready for the improved competition.
"There's no sense holding them back if they're ready to let loose," Larry said. "The six or seven year olds who are more aggressive are bumped up."
The family will also participate in several national events this winter and spring. They hope to register Grant in the national qualifiers in 2005 to see how well he does.
"He puts his heart and soul into this," Larry said. "I just try to get him the best equipment I can so he can do his best and do it safely."
"If he ever gets tired of the competition," Sandi adds, "he can give it up. But as long as he likes it, he'll keep riding. Right now, he still can't wait to get out and race."