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Canyon Country Teen Earns National Motocross Title
November, 2022 - Issue #215

Blake Gardner was just 2 years old when his parents got him his first motocross bike.
His father, Dave, has been riding with other firefighters for years. Karen, his mom, also has experience riding, and his two older sisters, Megan and Amanda, do too.
None of them can claim to be a national motocross champion, though, the title that Blake earned when he recently took first place at the 2022 AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship 250B Limited division held at Loretta Lynn's Ranch in Tennessee.
"I was shocked. I just couldn't believe it," Blake said. "I was feeling really comfortable going into it. I was hoping for a top-five [finish] and I was so surprised when I won."
Blake's journey began at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dave heard that schools were transitioning to remote learning, and knowing that his son was interested in taking the next step in his motocross career, asked his wife about sending Blake to Robbie Reynard's training complex in Wellston, Oklahoma.
Blake had trained with Reynard before, but usually only for a couple of weeks at a time.
"He stayed there until the BIG RACE at Loretta and then moved back home, but after experiencing the full-time rider's life, he couldn't wait to get back."
"[My parents] were the ones that told me about it and talked me into it," Blake said. "All of the tracks around us in California were starting to close down and school went online, so we had time to come out here. It took me to the next level."
The first trip kept Karen there for about a month before she had to head back home. Blake, though, stayed to train for the race at Loretta, which meant three months living with the small racing community at Reynard's.
He stayed there until the big race at Loretta and then moved back home, but after experiencing the full-time rider's life, he couldn't wait to get back.
When it came time to prepare for the Loretta race again - an event that draws over 20,000 hopefuls each year - he went back to Reynard's in 2021. He has been living away from his family ever since.
He wakes up every day and runs 3 miles, then rides for about five or six hours. After that, he and the other live-in riders go to the gym. Then he works on his bike, eats dinner and gets ready for the next day. "The routine never really changes a whole lot," Blake said.
It's a difficult situation for the Gardner family, though they find time to talk to each other as much as possible. "We FaceTime a lot. We Snapchat a lot. So it's nice," Karen said.
Being able to train with a professional like Reynard, who has been racing as a professional since 1993, has done wonders for Blake's technique and confidence. According to Karen, Reynard told her husband that heading into the 2022 race at Loretta, Blake was looking as good as ever.
"Robbie said something clicked a few months before the race," Karen shared. "My husband got calls like, 'Wow, Blake's riding really good. Lap times are amazing.'"
That first race saw Blake finish second, and he did the same in the second race, putting him in pole position to win it all in the third and final race.
I woke up in the middle of the night before the final race thinking, 'Oh my God, Wilson was not at the last two races. And he didn't do as well. So I'm bringing him this time," said Karen.
Wilson is a terrier mix that Blake rescued while living in Oklahoma. Without any friends or family around, Wilson became a big part of Blake's life - and he was there to see the rider finish fourth to finish first overall in the series.
After the race, Blake was unsure of where he stood in the overall standings. "It was crazy," Blake said. "I didn't know I won and my mom came over crying. She's like, 'You won!' My dad came over and gave me a big hug."
All of that after being one of just 12 to move on from an area qualifier and just six to qualify at a regional race to even get to Loretta. In total, 42 racers qualified for the Loretta race.
The victory was not the only recognition that Blake received that day. He was also honored with an award from US Air Force Staff Sgt. Matt Sluder in recognition of his dedication and hard work.
"My family is telling me to keep going, to follow my dreams," Blake said. "I see myself doing this for a long time."
See more community sports game coverage and features in The Signal daily in print and online at signalscv.com.
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