Ty Freehill free wheels to championship

HIGH FLYING Ty Freehill practices at his El Dorado Hills training course. Freehill is a 7-year-old AMA Arena Cross champion. Democrat photo by Krysten Kellum

SEVEN-YEAR-OLD Ty Freehill takes a break from riding his dirt bike to pose for a photo. Freehill has been racing since he was 4. Village Life photo by Krysten Kellum

While the rest of us settled on brunch, flowers, candy or a card to honor mom this past Mother’s Day, Ty Freehill had bigger things in mind.

The 7-year-old motocross racer added to his already impressive list of accomplishments by winning the Las Vegas Amateur AMA National Arenacross Championship at UNLV’s Sam Boyd Stadium. He capped the victory with an on-stage “Happy Mother’s Day” shout-out to his mom, Ande, while accepting his national championship plate with an ear-to-ear smile.

Though Ty thought the Las Vegas hotel room “smelled” of cigarettes, he smoked the competition in the race — out-riding the pack to the first turn and never looking back. Ty’s margin of victory was a half a track length over the next closest finisher.

“All I thought about was winning and my dad,” said Ty, whose strategy is to lead at the hole-shot (first turn) and take off from there.

Back home in El Dorado Hills, Ty and his 4-year-old brother Nate, a BMXer at heart, share a room. Like typical kids, they planned to move into their own rooms when they got older but that day is coming sooner than expected. Ty’s trophy hall of around 100 is beginning to crowd Nate.

HIGH FLYING Ty Freehill practices at his El Dorado Hills training course. Freehill is a 7-year-old AMA Arenacross champion. Democrat photo by Krysten Kellum

Ty’s tallest trophy, one he won’t stand eye-to-eye with until he’s a teenager, is for his most recent victory at the recent Hangtown Classic amateur races. As nice as that one is, considering it was right in his back yard, the Vegas victory helped push the Freehill name into the national spotlight.

Even before his win in Las Vegas, Ty’s earlier results were well known on the racing circuit. He has sponsor help from Spy, Folsom Fuel and Team Faith while Cobra Motorcycles, manufacturer of Ty’s 50 cc bike, let the Freehills know its watching.

Ty’s response? “That’s sick,” he said.

It seems like Ty was born to ride motorcycles. From an early age, he either had a toy one in his hand or was eager to climb on any he saw. That interest prompted dad, Chris, to get Ty a dirt motorbike at age 3, one with training wheels and a throttle that Chris controlled. Before long Ty wanted to ditch the training wheels so they struck a compromise.

“I made a deal with him — learn to ride a bicycle and you can take the training wheels off,” Chris said.

Ty was 4 when he entered his first race at the Sacramento Raceway on his PW 50. He placed second to last but wasn’t discouraged and bounced back to average top-five finishes the rest of the spring series. Ty won every race in the summer series and has been a contender, if not a winner, in every event since.

“That very first race felt good but I wanted to do better — I wanted to win the second race,” Ty said.

The Freehill’s backyard acreage at their El Dorado Hills’ property is perfect for Ty to hone his skills. Thanks to Chris’ tractor work to create track-like conditions, Ty has plenty of jumps, rolls, berms and turns on which to practice. Chris is also the mechanic.

“He does the work; I do the riding,” Ty said of the arrangement.

Despite the early success and a promising future, Chis and Ande have taught Ty the importance of humility. They’ve also been careful to not let him burn out. The family just returned to racing last February after a five-month break. Ty’s other interests include football, baseball, wakeboarding and BMX bikes. Rounding out the family is 10-year-old Kevyn, who enjoys softball.

Much of Ty’s career has been regional and on the West Coast. Ty stepped out in Las Vegas, the season’s final indoor race, and the plan is to do more of that in the future. The family recently traveled to Washougal, Wash., and another qualifier leading to the outdoor championship in Tennessee at end the season.

Ty’s ultimate goal is to turn pro like his current favorites Kevin Johnson and Ryan Dungy.

Let’s see — 7 years old, talented, a national champ and still in his prime — yeah, he has a shot.

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Posted by on May 26 2011.
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