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Belgrade youth excelling at motocross
Dan Chesnet
Sports Editor

Blake Ard

While most 10-year-old boys are busy with collecting action figures or trading cards, Blake Ard is a little more ambitious. He collects trophies ­ lots of trophies.

His most recent acquisition was a four-foot tall beauty nearly as big as Blake himself. He collected it last Saturday in Great Falls after being honored as Montanas back-to-back state champion in the High Country Motorcross Association circuit.

This one, I think, is the best so far, said Blake, who recently dyed his hair bright pink.

Blake, a fifth-grader at Belgrade Intermediate School, won his second straight title back in July after competing in the 10-12-year-old 60B class in the HCMA circuit. Blake finished as the points leader for the 2006 season, and beat out 66 other riders including his sister, Hannah, for the championship. Hannah was 37th.

The trophy was the biggest that Blake has received to date, and one of more than 300 he has earned since beginning motocross five and a half years ago.

I try to keep most of them in storage, said Blakes mother, Mandy. Once they filled his room, his sister's room, and the living room, I was like, OOkay, the big ones can stay. All the rest of them have to go.

The big ones include Blakes two state championship trophies, a runner-up trophy, a consolation trophy, a fourth-place trophy, and a 12th place trophy ­ all from state competition.

Although he's still three years away from his teens, Blake has emerged as one of the best youth motocross riders in the state. In addition to racing in the HCMA circuit, Blake has also competed in the Mon-Dak races, the AMA ProAm Nationals (the United States circuit) and is currently riding in the Rapid City (S.D.) circuit.

Blake began riding at the tender age of four after pleading for a bike. The very first time I got involved in this, I kept begging my parents to get me a dirt bike. When I was like two or three, said Blake. And they finally bought me a PW, and then I saw a race.

The first race he went to was just to see, added Mandy. And then we just took it from there.

In motocross, it's common for aspiring riders to begin racing at a very young age. And as is the case with just about any other sport, there is a peewee division. That's where Blake got his start, in the 50 class which refers to the size of the bike.

You know they start out so little. We watch some of the little 50 peewees that start at (age) four. And they're so little they barely and hook up their boots. They're cute, said Mandy. But it's not so cute anymore. It's getting a little bit scarier now ­ he can jump 82 feet on this bike. So it's getting a little scary.

There have been some bumps and bruises over the years, including a concussion during the 2006 season. But Blake was quick to state that racing was exciting unless you wreck.

Said Mandy: We've only made one hospital visit in five and a half years, so I think we're pretty lucky.

Currently, the HMCA circuit is on hiatus for the winter. But Blake will continue to race over the next five months in arena cross (indoors). The closest facility for the Ards is in Rapid City, S.D., and Blake was encourage to keep racing by his main sponsor, Hi-Tech Motor Sports in Billings.

It's hard to cool off for five months and then be expected to go out and win noted Mandy. So we're keeping him in it year round now.

Blake and his sister Hannah have competed on every course in Montana from Livingston to Hungry Horse to Malta. The duo also rode in the Washougal ProAm National in Washougal, Wash., a race that featured 48 competitors at the start line in their heat.

With those events, and now the trips to Rapid City, the Ards have put plenty of miles on the family vehicle ­ 30,000 since April to be exact.

We do travel a lot, said Mandy. We only do the Montana state circuit and then we went out and did a few ProAm National races just to see how they'd do against the national circuit. And he trophied in both of them. He did awesomely.

The HCMA features nearly 600 racers in the local circuit across Montana. Most of the events take place at the MetraPark Arena in Billings, and Blake said he knows nearly all of the other riders.

While in the Gallatin Valley, Blake often practices at the Van Ry MX Park adjacent to Interstate 90 about five miles west of Belgrade.

The Ards are in the process of preparing to build a new home next spring on 10 acres of land that will incorporate their own practice track. And with the extra space, Blake hopes to pull some of those boxed up trophies out of storage.

He wants to build them (the trophies) into his walls, said Mandy. And in the long run, Blake plans on sticking with the sports he loves. I want to try and do it until I get into the pros and stuff, said Blake. And earn some money, added Mandy.