Competition and speed fuel young, local snocross racer in Craig
March 7, 2011
Logan Montgomery sat at the starting line on his Arctic Cat 120.
It was an unseasonably warm day in mid-February on the grounds of the Wyman Museum in Craig.
Fourteen other racers sat on stock or modified snowmobiles next to Logan and revved their engines.
The flag dropped.
Logan pinned the throttle, burst out of the hole and took a commanding early lead.
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Logan is 7 years old.
He and his brother, Luke Montgomery, 4, are among 15 children who participate in Xtreme Mountain Racing's 120 class of racing events.
Racers in XMR's 120 class are 4 to 10 years old.
The event signaled a comeback for Logan. It was his first race since he suffered a serious injury in August while dirt biking.
Gunning his sled's modified engine, Logan was four lengths ahead of his nearest competitor. By the third lap in the four-lap Sunday Madness 120 Race, Logan had lapped many of the stock sleds that languished at the back of the pack.
His father, TJ Montgomery, beamed while the race unfolded.
Earlier in the day, Logan had won two heat races and taken first place in the modified-sled race.
"This is our first (event) since the accident happened," TJ said. "Logan hasn't missed a beat."
The Montgomery home sits at the end of a county road a few miles north of Craig. It's a roomy, newer house on a big plot of land.
The property includes a half-mile practice track TJ dug with an excavator.
Inside the home, Logan pointed to the trophy collection in the corner of his room.
Logan stands 3' 9" tall. Three of his trophies stand taller.
"These are all for state champion," Logan said of the three.
Logan's mother, Debbie Montgomery, stood nearby and tallied the number of awards.
In the three years Logan has been racing snowmobiles and dirt bikes, he has amassed roughly $1,500 in savings bonds, 53 trophies and 20 medals.
He also picked up some metal.
Debbie reached behind a row of trophies and pulled out a paper envelope containing two sterilized titanium rods.
"These are the rods that came out of his leg," she said.
The accident took place in August 2010 in Rock Springs, Wyo.
Logan was practicing on a dirt track in preparation for a state championship.
TJ said the track was open to riders of all ages.
"It was not a controlled practice, so there were big bikes and little bikes, and it was a bad mixture," TJ said.
Trouble began when Logan dumped his bike on the backside of a jump. He was fine, but not out of danger.
Debbie said she watched as events unfolded.
"I was on the other side of the track and I saw him go down," she said. "I started running over to him."
While Debbie ran through the track's midfield, she saw an adult dirt biker approaching Logan's. The older rider couldn't see Logan, she said.
"I saw the big bike coming, and I … started screaming," she said. "I knew he was going way too fast to slow down."
The older rider hit the jump and landed on Logan.
At Wyman Museum, just before the start of the Sunday Madness race, the Vorous family from Gypsum was preparing their two children, Seth, 10, and Haelyn, 7, to enter the race.
The father, Shane Vorous, said it would be the fourth race of Haelyn's career.
Shane cradled Haelyn in his arms while she smiled.
"Someone caught the (racing) bug a few weeks ago," Shane said of his daughter. "Now, it's all she wants to do."
Shane's son started young, too.
"Seth started when he was three," Shane said. "He'll be riding better than me in a year or two."
Haelyn also started young by riding in her father's sled. Haelyn was so comfortable during long rides she would fall asleep, Shane said.
"I'd have to hold her in one arm for 50 miles," he said.
Shane said 120 racing fosters good riding.
"I wish more people knew about it because it's a great thing to learn in the 120 class," he said. "They don't go very fast, and it's basically like trail riding."
Shane said he sometimes gets nervous about his children racing in tight quarters alongside other kids, but not very often.
"It depends on the track and the race," he said. "But, most of the time they're pretty good riders."
Teresa Stoffle is XMR's co-owner. Her organization hosts six to eight racing events every year throughout Colorado, Wyoming and Utah.
The events feature co-ed competitions between teenagers, adults and children.
Stoffle said 120 class racing is rare. She estimates fewer than 20 clubs in the U.S. offer children a chance to participate.
And, few of those organizations allow the kids to truly compete.
"We're one of the only ones that let them run the full rounds — qualifying rounds and then a final," Teresa said. "Most of the 120s just go out and run for 15 minutes during lunchtime."
Stoffle said the children in her organization get time on the same tracks adults run.
Teresa's two children, Michelle and AJ, both began racing at young ages — Michelle at 12 and AJ at 4.
AJ, now 13, said he remembers the early days.
"I remember how much fun it was being out there with friends," AJ said. "All of us were friends off the track, but it was competition on the track."
AJ, who won a bronze medal during a 120-class event at the 2004 X-Games in Aspen, said he has amassed 140 trophies and plaques over the years.
AJ said he believes starting young will give him and other 120 racers a head start in the sport — one that will translate into big wins in the future.
"Yes, I do," he said. "It's a lot easier because you know how everything works, and you're familiar with snowmobiles, and you know what you're doing."
AJ said he wasn't afraid to race at a young age, but he remembers feeling nervous before each event.
"Every morning, you'd get butterflies in your stomach," he said. "As soon as you got on the line, though, and the flag dropped, those butterflies went away."
Logan described what it feels like to break a femur.
"It tickles and hurts at the same time," he said.
His mother had a different reaction to the injury.
While Logan was lying on the side of the track in Rock Springs, Debbie said she panicked.
"I was hysterical when I first got up there," she said. "Then, TJ said, 'You've got to calm down.' And I thought, 'You're right. I'm not helping matters any.' I calmed down, and started getting his helmet off."
TJ said keeping a cool head in a crisis comes naturally to parents.
"It's an automated system," he said. "You will be automatic and do what you need to do for your child."
The Montgomerys took Logan to the hospital. Twenty-four hours later, he underwent surgery.
"This was a very intense surgery," Debbie recalled. "We had three choices. We could have done a body cast, do a rod on the outside of the femur…or do the rods on the inside."
They opted for rods inside the bone.
Logan spent nine weeks in a wheelchair, and several more weeks on crutches.
Six months after the accident, he was racing again.
His parents said Logan didn't hesitate.
"Not at all," Debbie said.
"I think the reason why he's not (hesitant) is the accident wasn't his fault," TJ said. "You know, if you do something yourself, and you're the cause of it, you'll think of it that way.
"But, he wasn't the cause of it. What happened was a weird circumstance. It was a bad scenario that wasn't in a controlled environment.
"When he climbed back on, he was just ready to go."
Logan said he was nervous before his first race after the injury.
"I kind of couldn't remember what to do," he said. "But, I figured it out."
Debbie said some people have questioned her choice to allow Logan to race again.
"After his injury, I've had people say, 'How can you let him continue after he broke his leg?'" she said. "But, I would probably be the worst mother on earth if I didn't let him.
"If that's what he likes to do, you have to let him go out and do it."
TJ said Logan demonstrates respect for the sport and its dangers.
"If he had no fear and he went launching off a jump in fifth gear and wrecked, maybe I might think about it then," he said. "They respect the machine. They don't just grab a handful of throttle and fly off into the sunset."
TJ said XMR requires children to wear the same types of safety equipment that adults do. Logan and Luke wear high-tech helmets with neck restraints, shoulder pads with spine protection, and more.
XMR officials inspect children's safety equipment before the start of each event.
The Montogomerys, who have both participated in snowmobile racing on and off throughout their adult years, said starting their children into racing is about providing them with opportunities.
"You have to start them now," TJ said. "If they choose to go down that path, so be it, you support them. If they choose not to, fine, they'll go do something else.
"But, if they want to be the best of the elite, you've got to start them at this young age."
Debbie said the decision to race rests with her children.
"We don't push them," she said. "If they don't want to do it, we won't do it. But, they seem to want to do it."
Logan said he chooses to race for two reasons.
"I'd say competition," he said. "And speed."
The Sunday Madness race was in its third lap when Haelyn collided with another racer.
Officials around the racetrack waved yellow flags to stop the other racers while a crowd gathered around Haelyn, who had fallen off her sled.
She was huddled in the snow and crying.
A few minutes passed and Haelyn rose to her feet, mounted her sled and finished the race.
Afterward, her father, Shane, reflected on the crash.
"Remember what I said earlier about not being nervous? Now I'm scared to death," he said. "I'm not afraid of the 120cc stock class, but I am afraid of this (Sunday Madness)."
The collision in the Sunday Madness race created confusion.
Although Logan was the frontrunner during the third lap, some of the racers continued to advance after the yellow flag was waved.
Logan ultimately placed second.
However, later that night, he was given a trophy for his earlier race.
Debbie said Logan stood before a crowd of 50 to 75 people within the Wyman Museum to accept his award.
In his acceptance speech, Logan thanked his parents and the children he raced against.