Sports column: Hermantown woman joins the ranks of motocrossGrowing up, Kalee Palmer of Hermantown, wasn’t afraid to try sports new to her. She spent hours on the softball field and in hockey rinks — playing with both boys and girls her age.
By: Sarah Packingham, For the Budgeteer News
Growing up, Kalee Palmer of Hermantown, wasn’t afraid to try sports new to her. She spent hours on the softball field and in hockey rinks — playing with both boys and girls her age.
So when she met her fiancé Scott, who was into dirt biking, it wasn’t abnormal for Palmer to just give it a try.
”I went and watched him a few times,” Palmer said. “Since this was going to be a lifelong sport to him, I figured I might as well try riding, rather than just sit at the track and be bored.”
And Palmer hasn’t been bored since, being one of the only females in the Northland to race motocross.
”As for the area of Duluth, there are basically zero women that I see riding at the motocross tracks,” she said. “I haven’t seen any this year in fact. Of the few that show up occasionally, they are usually from out of town preparing for a district race that weekend. When I attend practice every week at the local track, I am the only woman rider 99 percent of the time. At the local race track, there may be anywhere from two to seven women riders for a race day. Most are from out of town.”
For most women, that would be intimidating, and for Palmer it was at the start, but she found herself getting comfortable the more she did it.
”Being a beginner and going out on the track with a bunch of males can be scary,” she said. “But it definitely built my confidence and I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter how fast or good you are on the track. Just follow the rules, and we can all avoid injuries.”
In the sport, Palmer has learned that safety is key and that she doesn’t need to compare herself to anyone else.
”I’ve been doing this for about five or six years now,” she said. “By now, I’ve learned that there’s no reason to compare myself to everyone else. I go out there to ride and have fun. Plus, it’s kind of cool to talk about dirt bikes because most people think girls and women don’t ride dirt bikes at all. Most people I talk to are thrown back by the fact that I can ride one.”
Motocross racers are separated into several districts; in the state of Minnesota there are 23 districts, but about only 50 women riders registered to race a summer season.
Competitions take place statewide nearly every weekend starting in April and running through October.
”I would usually race a few races each summer,” Palmer said. “I never had the opportunity due to my work schedule to truly compete for district points and race every weekend. We call those people ‘weekend warriors.’ That’s what they do all summer. Every weekend they travel statewide to race for points.”
The closest race course to Duluth is in Brookston, Minn., and they offer weekly organized practices.
Although popular in some parts of the state, it’s not something that’s very familiar to many northern Minnesotans, Palmer said.
”I had no idea about this sport until I got into it,” Palmer said. “In fact, most people I think have the general impression that ‘It can’t be that hard to ride a bike. Just twist the throttle and go! Big deal, right!?’ Wrong. Motocross is such a unique sport compared to other sports. It’s physically and mentally demanding. It’s not a team sport. It’s all up to you to make it happen. It’s one of the most physically demanding sports out there. Imagine holding up a 230-plus pound bike and flying through the air, going through all different types of terrain, all while going fast. It takes massive amounts of endurance, strength, skill, balance and good health.”
But the best part of motocross is participating with her soon-to-be
”It’s nice to be able to find a hobby that both my fiancé and I love to do,” Palmer said. “Some couples like to fish, hunt, travel, go for long walks on the beach, et cetera. But this is something a lot different and unique that most couples don’t have together. The fact that we both ride dirt bikes makes it fun. We keep each other company and meet a lot of new friends during the whole process. It’s also fun to be able to learn from others and become a better rider.”
Duluthian Sarah Packingham writes about sports for the Budgeteer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.