by Dennis Dalman
They say it takes a village to raise a child, and it’s also true, in the words of Kala Windahl of Sartell, that “It takes a whole family to run a motocross race team.”
For years, two of the Windahl children – Chloe and Evan – have participated avidly in motocross racing. Their father, Russ, used to race, too, as an adult, but he decided to quit because of busier things on his schedule.
Both children developed a hankering for racing when Russ and Kala would take them trail riding with them at their grandparents way up north.
Motocross means motorcycle racing on dirt tracks riddled with devious challenges, including sharp corners, bumps and a devilish “Whoops” section filled with enough bumps to rattle the bones.
“Chloe was about 16 when she decided she wanted to ride at the Motocity Raceway near Cushing,” Kala said.
Now 21, Chloe likes the sport more than ever.
Evan, who just turned 9, started racing dirt bikes when he was only 5. Before that, at the tender age of 4, he had raced snowmobiles.
When Kala became aware of Evan’s young eagerness to do motocross racing, she was nervous at first, very apprehensive.
“I was so anxious about him getting an injury, and injuries do happen in motocross,” Kala said. “But since he started doing it, I now love motocross because it’s such a good family activity. The families always get together at practices and races. The kids develop lasting friendships, and they learn sportsmanship, lots of confidence and enjoy their camaraderie. They also learn how to like and respect their competitors. Motocross has been a great family experience in every way.”
The families become so close they are always diligent about saving any spare motorcycle parts, just in case some other family could use them.
“We in motocross are a very tight community,” Kala noted.
Chloe is a student at St. Cloud State University, studying accounting. Evan is a third-grader at Pine Meadow Elementary School; his teacher is Cathy Elwell. The Windahl’s other daughter, 23-year-old Olivia, is not outdoorsy in the slightest. She is about to graduate from SCSU with a major in linguistics and English-as-a-second-language.
When Evan was just 5, he finished second in the Amsoil Amateur SnoCross series in the 4- to 5-year-old 120 cc class. As a consistent competitor in the District 23 Amateur Riders Motorcycle Association, Evan finished the 2013 season in sixth place out of 40 riders in his 7- to 8-year-old 50 cc PreMix class. That honor was based on number of races attended and most points earned. Evan has now graduated to another class, the 65 cc class (a bigger motorcycle).
District 23 covers most of Minnesota and parts of western Wisconsin.
Evan’s role models are Ryan Dungey, a national champion motocross racer from Belle Blaine, and Tucker Hibbert, a five-time games winner for SnowCross and a multiple-year champ in the Amsoil SnoCross series. Another of Evan’s role models is sister Chloe, who competes in the women’s class with her 250 cc KTM, an Austrian-made motorcycle. Evan also rides a KTM, a 65 cc version this year.
The past season, Chloe finished seventh in her women’s class, despite injuries to her feet and ankles that tormented her for months. She had broken both ankles while flat-landing on her motorcycle after a jump. The injuries required two surgeries.
One day, Kala asked her daughter, recovering from surgery, “Well, Chloe, is it maybe a good time to sell that bike.”
Chloe didn’t pause even for a millisecond.
“Absolutely not!” she replied.
Evan is just as dedicated to motocross.
“He’s a polite, kind, good kid,” Kala said. “He loves to read; he’s a good student; and like any boy he loves Legos and video games. But he also likes to get dirty.”
Motocross racers, she explained, get very, very dirty on the bumpy dirt trails.
Kala and other motocross enthusiasts are always seeking to recruit more girls and women into the sport. They – and boys – can start as early as 4 years old.
Most people, she said, have no idea how widespread the sport is and how much fun and rewarding it is. Anyone who wants. to find out more about motocross can call Kala at 320-293-2197 or Russ at 320-248-0482.
“Russ and I would even be willing to let people come along with us when we go to practices or races, just to get a feel for the sport.”
More about motocross, including lots of photos, can be seen on the following website: www.armca.org.