Taking a Chance on motocross

Messenger photo by Dedra Cordle
Chance Litchfield, 7, sits atop the Cobra Junior he affectionately refers to as “The Ripper.” For more than a year, the London resident has been “ripping” through the junior class motocross circuit.

(Posted July 7, 2020)

By Dedra Cordle, Staff Writer

Chance Litchfield thought he was prepared for the moment.

For more than six months, the just turned 5-year-old had trained his butt off, perfecting his burgeoning skills on the dirt bike in order to compete at his first motocross circuit event.

He assured his parents, father Cory Litchfield and mother Chelsea Sanders, he was up for the challenge and they didn’t have to worry about anything.

“I got this,” he told them.

But as he waited for his class to be called to the starting gate, he started to get a little sweaty, his hands a little clammy, and his stomach a whole lot of upset.

“This is OK,” he told himself. “Just push through it.”

As he looked at the unfamiliar terrain, at all of those big and small jumps, the tight corners and narrow corridors, his face started to tremble and he couldn’t help but to cry.

“I was so nervous,” he recalled. “I didn’t think I would be as nervous as I was, but I really couldn’t help it.”

With tears in his eyes, he went over to his mom and dad for comfort and a directive to get out there and go. They offered him the former but not the latter.

“When we decided to allow him to get involved in the sport, we did so knowing that we would not be forcing him to do anything he did not want to do,” Cory explained. “This is all about having fun, and his future in this sport is entirely up to him.”

Photo courtesy of Moto Sports
Chance in race mode

Secretly though, his mother was thrilled that Chance seemed to be having second thoughts on participating competitively in the sport.

“I had hoped it was a passing interest when he first took an interest in the bike,” Chelsea admitted. “He was already involved in football and basketball and baseball, so I thought it was just another thing for him to do for a while. I didn’t know at the time that this would be happening.”

After some hugs and kisses and encouraging words, Chance took his bike to the starting gate and pushed through the nerves.

As the mark to begin sounded, he and his bike took off. Muscle memory kicked in, something he had honed while navigating the practice course at the arena and in his grandparents’ field in Mount Sterling. He felt exhilarated at the speed at which he was going and delighted by the competitive spirit of his fellow racers. When the race was over, he knew he was hooked.

“I loved it,” he exclaimed. “To go that fast is the best feeling.”

However, it didn’t stop those nerves from creeping in at subsequent events.

“He cried before every race in those first few months,” Chelsea said.

But he also racked up wins, too, throughout the Midwest and Southern regions.

In the summer series last year, and with several first-place finishes under his belt, Chance was set to compete for a spot at the national motocross championship that takes place the first week of August at the Loretta Lynn Ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tenn.

“And I was this close to qualifying for it,” he said, practically smooshing his thumb and index finger together.

It was a crushing defeat for the then 6-year-old.

Chance’s grandfather, Jeffrey Sanders, encouraged him to keep the faith in his abilities and try again.

“I made a promise to him that I would get there,” Chance said.

And he did, though he will do it without the supportive presence of his beloved grandfather who passed away due to cancer in October.

“It’s going to be sad without him there, but I kept my promise to him,” Chance said.

A few weeks back, while competing against several hundred regional racers in the junior class at Lincoln Trails in Illinois, Chance and his Cobra Junior, “The Ripper,” placed third overall and snagged a coveted spot at the nationals.

“I couldn’t believe it at first,” he said, “but I’m really going to Loretta’s.”

Since coming off of that accomplishment buzz, Chance has been practicing on the man-made trail behind his grandmother’s rural home.

“It allows him to not bother so many people like he does at home in London,” Chelsea joked.

It also allows him to work on his speed and the handful of tricks he has in his bag. Not that he’s really allowed to, but he says he wants to show some style while representing his town next month at nationals.

In the meantime, between practices and circuit events in Ohio—he placed first in the junior class at the Pusheta Creek motocross event in Wapakoneta June 27-28–he is familiarizing himself with the ranch terrain via photos and archived race footage and scoping out competitors’ videos on YouTube.

“Some of them are beasts,” he said. “They are so fast.”

While he harbors no illusions of a first-place finish–his goal is to place in the top 10–he said he is ready for the challenge that lies ahead.

“It’ll be tough but I’ll just have to push through it,” he said.

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