FLEMING ISLAND - The Whiddon family is noted for their athletics in the area with football and wrestling the top draw for the likes of Wes, Heath and Walker, but the next great Whiddon may just be a guy flying through the air on the backside of a 80 miles per hour missile.
Seth Whiddon, 18, and a Fleming Island High 2019 graduate, has been under the radar of his chosen sport, but that may change come August when he competes in the Monster Energy AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship to be held on country singing star Loretta Lynn’s massive ranch in Hurricane Mills, TN from Mon., Aug. 3 to Sat., Aug. 8.
“If you want to achieve anything in motocross, you have to compete in this race,” said Whiddon, who qualified recently in Gainesville and was training at the WW Ranch Motocross Park in western Jacksonville. “People come from all over the world for this event.”
Whiddon, who has been racing his 250 CC Yamaha this season after getting the bug of racing at about nine years old, thinks his best asset on the bike is his stamina.
“The format is a rough 15 minutes of riding with two laps to the finish around about a 1.5-2 mile dirt course with hills and lots of sand and, of course, 40 other guys wanting to knock you on your butt,” said Whiddon. “I went to Gainesville and split the Motos with the best guy there and then the CoronaVirus hit and we didn’t know what was going to happen.”
At the Pro level, Whiddon, who can move into the B Class (C, B, A, Pro) said the race format is up to 30 minutes of riding with the final two laps to the finish.
“It’s insane the amount of jockeying that goes on to have position for that at final two laps and then it’s a mess for the final lap,” said Whiddon. “The rough part is that as the races get bigger, the risk taking becomes a bigger part of the game. It is literally 15 minutes of disaster waiting to happen.”
Whiddon listed off a series of pretty good bumps and bruises in is short career with a recent broken collarbone and a concussion on the page.
“The national race favors my style because I think I have better stamina; I’m able to stay on my feet more to maneuver and the race is going to be longer,” said Whiddon. “In the short races, it’s a blur because you have to absolutely throw down from the start and that can be treacherous.”
As far as his machine; meticulously tuned by his “guy”, Whiddon is still in awe of what his seemingly small-sized bike can do as far as speed and acceleration.
“It has a bunch of WIFI hookups that can tell my mechanic guy what is going on and he makes tweaks and it goes faster,” said Whiddon. “I’m still learning a little more about the engine itself so I can know what is going on while I’m out there.”
Whiddon’s training is a lot of riding, but also a lot of bicycling and a lot of stretching and flexibility.
“When you lose it out there, your body twists and flies in all kinds of different shapes,” said Whiddon. “When I broke by collarbone, I flipped over and my arm was like behind my head, but it could have been worse if I was not limber.”
For the next week or two, Whiddon is set to relax, work some technique and hang out at a GMF Ranch owned by Jeremy Gibbs in Jesup, GA., with a group of riders that train and compete on the circuit.
“It’s a really close group, the riders,” said Whiddon. “We compete hard when we are out there, but we keep up with each other.”
Whiddon simply said the difference between winning and losing is courage.
“At that speed, on soft, squishy sand that changes every lap with guys wanting to pound you, it’s a matter of who flinches,” said Whiddon. “It’s a matter of who is going to dethrottle first when entering a hard turn. You’ll be holding 60 mph heading into a 90 degree turn and it’s the guy who brakes first that usually loses position. It’s pretty wild.”