Henry Feehan, a junior at RAHS, is a serious motocross competitor, who dedicates significant portions of his weekends and breaks to practice and compete. He has even qualified for the national championship in Tennessee, and likely would have attended the championship this year had it not been for his injury, sustained during a practice lap. It takes significant dedication and commitment for Feehan to stay at the top of his game, and setbacks are par for the course in such an intense sport.
“Motocross is a sport in which 40 competitors ride motorcycles around a dirt track, racing for 30 minutes, and once the 30 minutes have elapsed, an additional 2 laps,” said Feehan. “Whoever passes the checkered flag first wins, and points are assigned based off of placement. The difference between the first and second place could be anywhere between a half second to ten seconds, but larger gaps are always possible; sometimes the gap between first and last is under 15 seconds.”
The competitive nature of the sport ensures that to qualify for tournaments, competitors must finish in the top ranks of qualifying rounds, particularly for intense tournaments such as nationals. Feehan has qualified previously, but was injured before the qualifications for the upcoming nationals in Tennessee.
Feehan has been participating in the sport since he was only 10 years old. He frequently travels for competitions, sometimes spending twelve hours in the car over a single day. He has experienced several crashes, most recently on a training run, during which he broke his collarbone. After spending 15 weeks recovering, he was back on the bike.
“My mom is really upset that I still compete, but it’s not something that I can just stop; it is a part of who I am,” said Feehan. “My father has been very supportive throughout the process, and he has always supported my riding. The sport is primarily done throughout the summer, but practice is year round, so I’m always riding. Sometimes my mom thinks that motocross is too detrimental to my grades, and potentially my health, but I think its just fine.”
Calvin Wilson, brother of RAHS junior Nico Wilson, has been a member of the local motocross scene for years; he took up the sport in 2009, when he was 15. Nico fondly remembers his brother’s competitions.
“His competitions were always so fun to watch, but sometimes they were just too far away,” said Nico. “I know it really messed with his homework schedule sometimes, but I think it was worth it.”
Feehan believes that although the distance between competitions may be great, it does not inhibit the sport’s ability to bring friends together.
“Although the competitions can be far away, most of the competition [competitors] lives nearby, it’s just that the closest track is far away, but you can still hang out with them,” said Feehan.
The social nature of the sport is something that Feehan believes supplements his interactions at RAHS.
“It is really nice to have friends that share a common sporting interest, something that you can do outside of school with a group,” said Feehan. “Robotics and other things look fun, but can’t compare to the thrill of racing, it’s just significantly different from anything else I’ve done.”
Feehan’s mother’s concerns are not unfounded. He has sustained numerous injuries throughout his motocross career, both during training and in competition. While a broken collarbone is the worst he’s suffered, he has befriended other riders who have not been so lucky.
“I know two guys who were paralyzed as the result of a crash and many others who were injured in accidents,” said Feehan. “Falls are tough, and can pull you out of the competition for months on end; when you are sponsored and have thousands of dollars in the sport, a fall can be not only physically, but economically devastating.”
The sport is so competitive that many riders — such as Feehan — are sponsored by Motocross related corporations.
“I’m blessed to get a lot of my equipment for a reduced cost, otherwise I don’t know how I could afford to race,” said Feehan. “My parents pay for most of my stuff, but I still have to pay for certain products out of pocket.”
Feehan’s competitive spirit has served him well throughout the numerous competitions that he has attended, as he has placed well in several competitions, including the Washington State Championship.