Sean Calderon is one step closer to achieving his ultimate goal, which is to become a professional motocross racer.
The 17-year-old dirt bike racer from Garden City has qualified for the largest amateur motocross race in the world, the 37th Annual Rocky Mountain ATV/MC AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship, which will be held be held July 30 through Aug. 4 at the historic Loretta Lynn Ranch in Hurricane Hills, Tennessee.
Calderon said on Thursday it means a lot to him that he qualified for the event.
“It’s something that I’ve worked hard for for the past year, and every single year I’ve been racing,” Calderon said. “It’s my first year here.”
Calderon took on over 22,000 hopefuls from across America to earn one of just 1,446 qualifying positions in the competition, according to a press release.
“The Amateur National at Loretta Lynn’s is the best of the best motocrossers in America and around the world," said Tim Cotter, Director of MX Sports. “Just being here makes you an elite racer and a top athlete. A solid finish at Loretta’s would you give you instant National recognition and a possible professional career.”
The top finishers in Area Qualifiers and Regional Championships earn a gate position in the National Championship race at Loretta Lynn’s. Racers may enter a wide variety of classes, from minicycle classes for children as young as four, all the way up to a senior division for riders over 50. There are also classes for women and classes for both stock and modified machines. In total, there are 35 different classes of competition. Calderon will compete in the highly competitive 450 B class.
Calderon said aside from winning, he hopes to gain exposure while competing at Loretta Lynn’s.
“This is a very expensive sport and a lot goes into it. It’s hard to do on your own sometimes. When you get help from other people, or people offer to help you with stuff, it’s really nice,” Calderon said.
Calderon has won multiple races in the last five years and competes regularly at local and national amateur races across the country, whether it be motocross, arenacross or supercross.
Calderon said he has competed in a national competition in Florida, where were he took 13th out of 130 contestants; raced in the Daytona International Speedway for the Amateur Supercross in Florida, where he placed fifth; and has placed fifth while competing in the Georgia Dome for a national event since he began competing when he was 12-years old.
According to Sean’s mother, Lorie, Sean has traveled approximately 100,000 miles in the last four years for motocross competitions.
Calderon first got into dirt bikes in motocross when he was 11 years old after his father, Richard, brought home a dirt bike for him.
“My dad came home for a job and he traded out some work for a dirt bike, and asked if I wanted to ride. I said, ‘Sure’, and from there I loved it ever since pretty much,” Calderon said.
According to a press release, the track which Calderon will be competing on is built on a section of Loretta Lynn Ranch and Campground in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee.
The course contains a variety of jumps, corners and other obstacles designed to test the skills and stamina of the racers. The motocross track is used only once a year for motorcycles, so there is no hometown advantage. Racers compete in three 15- to 20-minute races over the course of the week per class.
Most of America’s top professional motocross racers, including James Stewart, Ricky Carmichael, Travis Pastrana and Ryan Dungey, have won AMA Amateur National titles at Loretta Lynn’s, according to the release.
Calderon said he knows that motocross can be a dangerous sport. He himself has broken three bones in his left foot, broke five bones in his right foot, dislocated a thumb and received various bruises over his time competing.
“It can be a dangerous sport, but if you have confidence in yourself and know what you’re doing and keep yourself healthy, then it’s not too bad,” Calderon said.
According to Calderon, his ultimate goal is to go pro in motocross, something he thinks the Loretta Lynn competition will help him achieve. He said he also looks up to professional motocross racer Eli Tomac, who has also competed at Loretta Lynn’s.
““He’s smooth and fast,” Calderon said of his idol, Tomac. “Hopefully I can be like him someday.”