Danni Williams, 10, of Clovis, has won nearly 100 motocross races. (CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle)
By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer
Behind oodles of gear — a jumpsuit, a helmet, white boots and gloves — Danni Williams appears formidable.
When she puts on the final piece of her outfit (orange-tinted goggles that shadow her eyes), her legs, which dangle and swing from the back of her father’s pickup truck, go still.
When she hops onto her motorcycle, all childishness disappears.
“Start out slow,” her father yells as she zips away to practice.
She listens. But soon, she’s zooming in circles and jumping over mounds of dirt, airborne.
Danni is a serious motocross racer. She’s one of a small group of Clovis females who compete in the sport, which pits racers against one another in outdoor dirt arenas featuring manmade obstacles.
She has competed in more than 300 races across New Mexico and Texas and has won close to 100, according to her father, Regan Williams.
“She’s just a natural competitor,” Williams said.
When she tires of practice, Danni pulls off her helmet and goggles. The girl she is — a polite 10-year-old, under 70 pounds, 3 inches shy of 5 feet, who craves competition — reappears.
“It’s cool to be flying high,” she said of motocross, a sport she has participated in since the age of 5.
“It’s fun to ride, but I always want to win,” said Danni, whose nose is dotted with freckles.
In Clovis, Danni and other female riders usually race against male riders because not enough girls participate in motocross.
“Girls don’t think racing is for girls,” Danni theorizes.
Motocross races at the Curry County Fair drew 250 participants last year, and about 4 percent of racers were girls, according to President of the Ned Houk Motor Sports Complex Ray Reeser, who lobbied to resurrect the sport in Clovis. He received permission from city commissioners in January to build a motocross track at Ned Houk Motor Sports Complex in Clovis.
Motocross races at the Ned Houk should begin in late April. If enough females — at least 10 — are interested, all-female races will be held at Ned Houk. But Reeser isn’t sure that will happen, and he suspects there won’t be enough female racers to be split into racing categories like male racers, who can enter races according to bike size or age.
Lumping female riders into a single category can make competition much more difficult, according to Sandi Hartman, a Grand Prix motorcycle racer and mother of motocross racer Paige Hartman, 11.
“My daughter is on a smaller bike racing against women on bigger bikes (of different ages). (She) has to be much more competitive,” Hartman said.
At Ned Houk, females will race against males if numbers don’t warrant all-female races, Reeser said. That, too, can be hard on females.
“Racing with the boys isn’t a big deal (for Paige) now. But as she gets older, it gets harder to stay competitive with the boys,” Hartman said.
For the time being, Paige and Danni say they are content racing against boys.
“I think they’re scared they might get beat by a girl,” Danni said, with a smile.
“When I beat the boys,” she said, “I can gloat.
“It feels great to prove we (girls) can do what they (boys) can do.”