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"Rejoice O young man, in thy youth."
Nathan Pribble has done a lot in motocross.
He's a five-time consecutive champion at a pair of tracks. He's a double-champion at a couple of other tracks. He has a display of trophies that would make a tinsmith blush. And that display only holds a portion of his haul.
Nathan Pribble is only 11 years old. True, this week, he'll celebrate his twelfth birthday. Still, he's come a long way in a short number of years.
The Forest Middle School sixth grader has been tearing up the track. This month, he begins his seventh campaign. "My dad (Keith Pribble) got me a 50 cc bike when I was five years old," Nathan recalled, noting that he started riding a bicycle (without training wheels) as a three-year-old tyke.
"He took to it like a duck to water," recalled Laura Pribble, his mother.
He really took to the sport after entering his first race, at Reidsville, N.C. Nathan took third place, which gave him the racing bug. After that, according to his dad, Nathan could be found riding around in the back yard and through fields behind the family's Forest home. "(At that point) I really wanted to do the sport," said Nathan. "It's fun and challenging."
It's also fast and exhilarating. Nathan's races typically consist of five to seven laps over a half-mile course. Those courses, spread out over Virginia and North Carolina, consist of turns, jumps, table tops, loops, double and triple jumps. And lots and lots of dirt.
It's also a sport that takes its toll. Last year, he raced both 65 cc and 85 cc bikes at 18 separate events. This year, Nathan will race only 85 cc bikes but in two distinct (but overlapping) age groupings: 9-13 year olds and 12-15 year olds. As a newly minted 12 year old, Nathan falls into the sweet spot that allows him to race in two groupings.
This year, Nathan has his sites squarely affixed on qualifying at regionals in the 9-12 year old category, meaning he'll have to finish in the top seven, of approximately 25 who will be in the running.
Should he qualify at regionals, the next stop would be at the national championships, in Hurricane, Tenn. The event is hosted by none other than country music great Loretta Lynn.
Looking at his resume, Nathan seems like a safe bet to realize his dream. He's been the track champ five straight times at the Birch Creek and Danville tracks. He's also won the title twice: at Lake Sugar Tree and Martinsville.
In order to prepare for regionals, the family has mapped out a slate of 19 races they'll plan on hitting.
It's not easy, particularly in the fall. Older brother Lucas is a standout football player (linebacker) at Jefferson Forest. Nathan plays for the Forest Black rec team.
Often, the family heads to a JF game on a Friday night, packs up the trailer afterwards, hits the rec game on Saturday morning, then zips to whichever track is hosting. "Many times we've rushed from football games right to the track," said Keith.
Keith is a strong advocate for motorcycling: a Harley man. He has strong opinions on the sport.
"When parents talk about dirt bikes, they immediately concern themselves with their child getting hurt," he said. "That's understandable.
"But watching Nathan grow in this sport, I've seen him learn and teach himself things he'll be prepared for when he (eventually) drives a car."
"His involvement has taught him respect for motorized vehicles," added Laura.
The young man has a wide range of interests, including football, basketball, golf and hunting. But, his passion is for motocross, citing James Stewart and Ryan Dungey as his two favorite professional riders.
Knowing that he still has a long way to go before joining that rarefied air, Nathan is focused on improving his skill and technique. "Cornering is what I need to work on," he noted.
It's a good path he's on: One that has a world of opportunity along it. For now, he's got his eye on a single prize, showing you're never too young to shoot for the moon.