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Hope Stillmock — One fast freshman
by Dan McGee
Jan 23, 2011 | 1698 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune/Dan McGee - Hope Stillmock stands in front of her Fernley home with the Honda she will campaign in the upcoming SMRA motocross season. This past year the Fernley High School freshman became the Woman's champion for the series.
Tribune/Dan McGee - Hope Stillmock stands in front of her Fernley home with the Honda she will campaign in the upcoming SMRA motocross season. This past year the Fernley High School freshman became the Woman's champion for the series.
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Tribune/Dan McGee - This past spring, Hope Stillmock flies her 2-stroke Honda over a jump during a race at the Lions Fernley Motocross Track. This year she's racing a 4-stroke Honda.
Tribune/Dan McGee - This past spring, Hope Stillmock flies her 2-stroke Honda over a jump during a race at the Lions Fernley Motocross Track. This year she's racing a 4-stroke Honda.
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Photo courtesy of Hope Stillmock - Riding her new 4-stroke motorcycle, Hope Stillmock takes off for a practice session at the motocross track in Fernley.
Photo courtesy of Hope Stillmock - Riding her new 4-stroke motorcycle, Hope Stillmock takes off for a practice session at the motocross track in Fernley.
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FERNLEY - Over the past few years a new generation of Nevada motocross racers has begun to follow their parents into the sport. Not surprising for such a family oriented activity.

One of them is 14-year-old Hope Stillmock, a freshman at Fernley High School, who grew up in a racing family where almost all of her elders either have or currently race. And this past season she became the Woman's champion for the Sierra Motocross Racing Association (SMRA).

And like many second generation racers, she began her association with motorcycles at a young age.

"The first time I got on a bike was when I was probably 4 years old," she said. "But I did more sports like softball, basketball, soccer and I started those around the normal age of 6 or 7."

Her first race, when she was about 10 years old, was on a 65cc bike. And like almost every racer, that first taste of competition was a bit different than she thought it would be.

"It was a lot more than I expected, a lot of kids and I had never done it before so didn't know what it was like," she said. "I was excited as it was one of the first ones where they had the rubber band go across and it was crazy."

For the younger riders a starting gate isn't used but there is a rubber band stretched in front them. When the band disappears, it's time to go.

After her first race Stillmock competed for fun as she was getting more serious about her other sports.

After playing soccer for six years she gave that up after middle school but this year took up golf.

"I just started golf this year and that went well. I was actually a stroke away from going to state," she said. "I had only played a few times before but was never really serious about it."

At Fernley High School she's on the freshman girls basketball team and usually plays the post-position. Then in the spring she'll switch to the softball team where she can be found either in center field or on first base.

Looking ahead she explained that softball would probably be her choice if she continues playing after high school.

At school her friends, that are still waiting to get their driver's permits, know that she's racing a motorcycle and Stillmock said most they think that's pretty cool.

"I've actually taught my closest ones how to ride," she said. "Some of them just wanted to learn and I said 'I'll show you how to do it.' And they think it's cool that having a girl teach them is pretty awesome."

As a racer progresses in experience they usually begin to get faster and one motivation for Stillmock is her aunt, Shami Potratz. And over the past few years she's getting closer to her very fast relative.

"She and I go out and ride sometimes," she said. "I try to keep up with her and try to get faster so she was good to ride with."

About three years ago, Stillmock become more serious about her racing. This has led her to compete outside of this area and this past summer's annual amateur race at Mammoth and the Day in the Dirt event in Southern California.

"When I did that amateur race up in Mammoth and saw the girls that were doing it are serious I thought it would be cool to pursue it more," she said. "And I love racing as it's been part of my life since I was little."

Mammoth draws a large number of riders and it's an annual event many look forward to but it's far different than racing at home.

"That was crazy," she said. "You get out here and there's maybe 10 girls in your race, but you get there and there's about 40. Just the whole style of it changes."

Motocross races begin with the field in a line-abreast formation so when the gate drops everyone takes aim at the first turn. Arriving there at the same time with the other racers can be an epic experience for anyone.

"The first turn was intense, there was pile ups everywhere," she said. "The first moto I got through OK and made it through there. In the second moto I got into a big crash at the top with a whole domino effect with about 12 girls, so that one wasn't so good."

Stillmock thought she ended up around 20th in the first moto and despite her crash, finished 14th in the second moto, which put her 15th overall.

"It was really cool to try a track I'd never been to before, I met tons of girls there and it was pretty fun," she said.

Although she's the woman's champion this past season, Stillmock also has competed against the gays.

"Racing with the guys is kind of scary sometimes," she said. "Last season I did maybe three races with the 125/250 Beginner class with the guys. Didn't think about it too much and this next series I'm going to try and do all the women and beginner class races with boys."

Besides cornering and going fast, anyone competing in motocross needs to be able to negotiate jumps. During a race a rider will be flying their bikes several times as they soar over jumps, tabletops and whoop sections.

"Jumping I'd have to say is my worst subject of motocross," she said. "Kind of scared when it comes to that but I guess what I've learned when I get to a jump is to just hold it on. Just not chop the throttle because every time I do I endo. Clearing a jump is better than casing it."

Landing on the frame under the motor or going end over end can really mess up a rider's day not to mention cause a lot of pain. So clearing a jump is very important.

One advantage Stillmock has is her family as she gets advice from her father, uncles and aunts since almost all of them race.

"It overwhelms me sometimes because they tell me to do things and sometimes I try them a few times and can't do it," she said. "But I know they are fast, know they are right and I know they wouldn't tell me something I couldn't do so I just try it again and again until I finally get it."

Motocross is physically demanding but since Stillmock is also playing a sport during racing season she uses those workouts to keep her conditioning at a high level. And she also tries to practice on her motorcycle at least two times a week to help her cope with the physical demands of racing.

Having the Lions Fernley Motocross track close by is another advantage.

"We went out last weekend for about five hours on Saturday," she said. "And we're kind into the BMX stuff so I have my bike and I ride that around a lot to stay in shape."

All this physical activity, between sports and conditioning has had a positive effect on Stillmock.

With me going faster and I have a new bike I've noticed that I'm not getting as tired as much," she said. "When I'm riding and done I used to get out of breath or be sore the next day. But it's becoming more routine and I'm not feeling it so much.

Last season Stillmock raced a 1994 Honda CR125 but this year she traded bikes with Drake McElroy and now rides his former super moto bike, a 2007 4-stroke Honda 250.

Switching from a 2-stroke that usually needs higher rpms, to a 4-stroke that has more low-end torque has meant some adjustment both in her riding style and where to use the increased power.

"The main thing is revving for me. On my 2-stroke I could just rev that thing as high as I wanted and shift when I wanted," she said. "On the 4-stroke I have to remember to shift when it starts revving out."

She explained that on a 2-stroke a rider shifts up and down in straights and in turns so the motor won't bog down. But on the 4-stroke she needs to remember not to shift so much.

"Like going into a turn on my 2-stroke being in third gear you go down to second to get through there. On my 4-stroke you can stay in third gear if you keep a good pace and just rev it out of the turn," she said. "I like the power of the 4-stroke as it will pull you out faster out of a turn.

Her first times on the new bike were pretty exciting as Stillmock related that giving it the gas in third gear almost sent her sliding off the seat. So she's had to learn and adjust to this new ride.

Like any racer most her efforts have been possible with the appreciated help of her father, Scott Stillmock.

"He's my main sponsor, he teaches me, is there for all my races, supports my bike and gives me advice," she said. "Also Drake McElroy and his family as they are a big friends of ours. And all my family are a big support as all my aunts and uncles are part of racing and they all help and cheer me on."

Anyone that competes in motor sports actually has two different personalities, one in the pits and one on the track. And everyone has a different method of handling this transition.

"Between the pits and the track I get a more relaxed guess and more serious. I've noticed that if I concentrate too much, try too hard I don't do too well," she said. "So my main thing is to relax more and maybe have fun in the pits but when I get there just think of the track."

Asked about the best and her least favorite parts of the sport, she said. "I love the whole lifestyle of motocross, going to the races, going riding with your friends and watching them ride and stuff. But the thing I probably don't like the best is the aggressiveness of it at times. Some people get too over their heads, some people want it to be more serious but I think it should be also fun at the same time."

Unlike for the boys and men, it's probably impossible for a woman to make a living as a pro motocross racer. But that doesn't mean Stillmock wouldn't like to.

"If we could make a living at it I would love to try," she said. "I would love to keep pursuing, keep learning how to go faster and making all those big races as well as getting into the motocross industry even more."

Right now she's focused on helping her basketball team as well as waiting for more practice session on the track. Then this spring she'll take her place at the starting gates when the SMRA season begins on March 6 at the Fernley motocross track.
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