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Local Dodge national champion looks haead
by Dan McGee - Special to the Tribune
Dec 23, 2013 | 1107 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by Dan McGee - Chad Heishman stands with his bike he uses for practice. After winning a championship at last summer's Dodge Amateur Nadtionals, he's training and preparing for the upcoming season.
Tribune photo by Dan McGee - Chad Heishman stands with his bike he uses for practice. After winning a championship at last summer's Dodge Amateur Nadtionals, he's training and preparing for the upcoming season.
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RENO — This past summer, Chad Heishman made a big step toward the top in his chosen sport, motocross. The 16-year-old McQueen High School student won two titles at the annual Dodge Amateur Nationals.

These events showcase the sport's young lions and are an important step for any rider that would like recognition and added support.

Reflecting on how he got there he said, "My dad bought me a bike when I was 3-years-old. I started riding at my elementary school on the baseball field. I started racing when I was 4-years-old but don't remember that first race."

In those days, his father Bud Heishman was racing so being at Fernley was something they did often.

"We were coming out every weekend and it was kind of a father-son deal. It's what I looked forward to ever since and it's what I live for," the younger Heishman said.

The youngest riders start on a single speed 50cc bike but when they move into the 65cc or 85cc machines they need to learn how to shift gears.

"Getting used to the clutch, I pretty much looped out a couple of times and broke a couple of back fenders. But once you get the feel for shifting, it kind of becomes second nature," he said.

As he got older, Heishman played football for about three years, stopping hen he entered high school. And during that time, when he was 12 and 13, he took a break from racing.

"Then we got back into it and I started riding better and kind of found a new gear. And we went to Mammoth and had some good finishes," he said.

The annual Mammoth event can be pretty intimating for a young rider. And Heishman's first trip there was when he was racing an 80cc bike.

"Everybody's fast and there's a ton of people there so you get your nerves up. Oh I remember that one," he said.

The next step was moving up to a 2-stroke 125 bike. But it was a challenge as he was switching from the 125 to an 80 for a while.

Later, he moved to a 4-stroke bike and raced that rather than his 125 2-stroke.

"We did it because the 125 just wasn't that competitive," he said. "The 4-stroke is much easier to ride because of the power band since it doesn't come on as fast and you can kind of control it better. You definitely have a lot more bottom end pull so you don't have to be too keen about what gear you're in and slipping the clutch a lot. You can kind of just roll on to it."

While he gave up football, he did compete on McQueen's varsity ski team during his freshman year.

"Now I'm riding a 250F and a 450F, which I like to ride at practice as it's a good bike to train on. But my main focus is on the 250F," he said.

While the amateur nationals are a pressured event, Heishman did very well for a first time rider.

"This was my first time at Dodge and I won the championship," he said. "Prior to that, we had gone to the World Minis where I got some good finishes."

One challenge any motocross racer faces when competing on different courses is no two are exactly alike. That and the fact a course will change almost every lap during a race.

"Usually Prairie City, where the Dodge Nationals are held, is like Exit 28, but for the Dodge Nationals this year, they put a ton of rice hulls and mulch into it so it was really soft, although there was some hard pack in some areas," he said. It was kind of inconsistent at times but it made for some good racing."

When the dust settled, Heishman racked up championships in Schoolboy, 250 Novice Stock and was third in the 450 Novice Stock class.

"At the beginning of the week you kind of work your nerves out then you get more confident," he said, commenting on the pressure, "Coming into that third moto is definitely nerve wracking so you've got to control your feelings and focus on riding. But after that, I was pretty stoked and since then I've had a lot of confidence and momentum going into the local races and stuff."

This past fall, Heishman only ran a few races but won at the Honeylake MX Park and at Stead Motocross track.

Now he's focused on taking the next step and upping his game. So he's spending time at the gym doing cardio and lifting weights to get stronger as motocross is a very physically demanding.

"I've got the speed but I've got to get the fitness to go that fast for that long. Cardio is probably the most important thing for me as I have asthma but lately I've been doing pretty good with it."

He's also considering rejoining McQueen's ski team, which would probably fit in with his training.

There are several amateur national events, including Dodge, the World Minis in Las Vegas and a couple in Texas. Heishman and his father are also thinking about going to the one at Loretta Lynn's dude ranch in Tennessee.

To compete in that event, he has to finish high enough in qualifier events, like the one at Honey Lake, then to go to one of the regional races. Then if he does well enough, he'll earn a spot at the Loretta Lynn Amateur National event.

Once in Tennessee, he has to be on his A game as there's much at stake for a young racer. Many times scouts for the pro teams attend as they are looking for new talent.

"I get one free year in the C class to get noticed. Once you go intermediate, you've got to race intermediate at the nationals and that class is pretty stacked," he said. "At Loretta's, you can ride the C class once. Then after that, you've got to be in the B class.

"So we're going to try and race the C class so we can get noticed and get some support going into the B class."

Until then, he and his father will be focused on competing in as many amateur nationals on the west coast as they can. For this young man, the path is clear and now the challenge is to reach his next goal as he moves toward the top.
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