By TONY STINNETT, Courier Sports Editor
Spencer Chatwood is a quick learner.
Chatwood, an 8-year-old Woodbury native, is one of the top Motocross performers in the Southeast in his age division.
He is the points leader in the Southern All-Star Series, which is a tremendous feat considering Chatwood is competing against riders throughout the Southeast. Now consider the fact this is his first summer competing as a Motocross driver.
In fact, Chatwood, the son of Alan and Melody Chatwood, only started riding a bike last year.
"He started off on a little Honda 50 and I noticed he was fairly decent," Alan says. "Santa Claus brought him a KX-65 this past Christmas. We watched him on that and we said, 'Wow, let's do this.'"
Six races later Chatwood has ascended to the top of the standings. He has run four races in Tennessee and two in Georgia. He has a future date in Mississippi. He has three top five finishes and two top 10s. His consistency on the track has earned him such a lofty status.
"I am very surprised to be leading in points," Spencer admits. "I didn't' expect that so fast. It makes me want to work even harder to stay at the top."
Consistency is important on the track but work ethic is also imperative to be one of the South's best racers. Seems Chatwood can't get enough riding.
"His work ethic is amazing," Alan points out. "He is relentless on trying to improve. He is a workhorse when it comes to trying to improve himself. During the school year every day when he gets home from school the first words out of his mouth are 'Can I ride today?' After he does his homework and his chores then he rides. That's the process every day."
It is hard to explain Chatwood's vast ability on the track considering how new he is to the sport. Perhaps the only explanation is he is a natural.
The first hint that he may have a special gift may have occurred when he was riding a four-wheeler at 2-years-old.
"You normally don't see a 2-year-old on a four-wheeler," Allen says. "I never had to use the remote control switch or anything. He was just a natural."
It was pretty clear he had a knack when he first climbed on his new KX-65 at Christmas.
"That bike has a clutch and you have to shift gears," Alan points out. "The first day he was shifting gears like he had been doing it for months. He caught on and went with it. He didn't have a rough learning curve."
On the track, Chatwood is aggressive, but smart. Winning drives the West Side Elementary student.
"Competing is fun and I like that," Spencer acknowledges. "Practice is fun but when you get out there and have people around you it makes it even more fun. I want to win out there. I like the speed and I like jumping. It's a lot of fun."
Part of Chatwood's secret is keen observation. He is an extremely well-mannered youngster who appears to be mature beyond his years. Some of Chatwood's favorite pro riders are Ryan Villapoto, James Stewart, Malcolm Stewart, Ryan Dungey and Justin Barcia.
"Dad and I watch (Motocross/Supercross) on TV," Spencer confirms. "We like the pros. You can learn watching them. I look and see how they do it so sometimes I'll try what they are doing in practice and see if it makes me better at riding. I would like to see myself on TV like those guys."
Spencer seems to have the skills necessary. He certainly adapts quickly, which is a good quality considering he started riding at 7-years-old and most competitive riders usually begin by age 4. The quick study has made up for lost time. In fact, he currently competes in the 7-to-9 age division. He will soon be competing in two classes as he will also run in the 6-to-11 year-old beginner class.
"The odds of making it professionally in Motocross are so unlikely," Alan informs. "They start 30 riders out of the entire United States. You really have to work hard and be amazing to get to that level."
Alan Chatwood has enjoyed watching his son compete but the two have gained much more through the process.
"It is amazing the time you actually spend with each other," Alan beams. "Since (Spencer) has been out of school we are together every day and it's not all about Motocross. You don't find many father/son relationships like we have. It's a blessing."
There is much more to Spencer than Motocross. He is also an All-Star in baseball, one of the top basketball players in his junior pro league and also is a top-flight football player in the Cannon County Youth Football League.
As Chatwood continues to hone his skills and race the circuit, it is clear he will remain as a fixture on the Motocross scene. As a result, sponsorship is key component due to equipment, races and travel expenses. Any individual or businesses interested in sponsoring Spencer Chatwood may contact Alan Chatwood at (615) 934-5861.