William "Branson" Pollard might just be seven years old, but he's already taking steps to reach some of his biggest dreams.
The Sumter native took a big step in that direction last week when he traveled with his family to Hurricane Mills, Tenn., …
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The Sumter native took a big step in that direction last week when he traveled with his family to Hurricane Mills, Tenn., to take part in the 38th Annual Rocky Mountain ATV/MC AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship at Loretta Lynn Ranch.
Pollard finished in 13th place overall, placing in the top third of all competitors in the 51cc (4-6) limited event.
Pollard's thoughts on the week of racing were pretty simple.
"It felt really cool, it was so fun," said the Alice Drive Elementary School student who will be entering the second grade when school begins later this month.
Just getting to Loretta Lynn Ranch was an accomplishment in and of itself. Pollard was one of 20,000 competitors from around the country trying to earn a spot and one of just 1,512 to qualify.
Pollard traveled around the country to compete in events, building up to regional qualifier, which earned him a spot in the championship.
"We've been traveling around all year," said Pollard's father, Brandan. "I think we've been through 15 different states traveling around and racing. It's definitely awesome."
The qualification process isn't easy. Six participants from each region of the country qualify for the championship at Loretta Lynn, so Pollard had a tough road ahead. First, he had to qualify for a regional event by earning a top-eight spot in a qualifier. Pollard then had to earn a top-six spot at the regional race.
The Pollards hedged their bets and attempted to qualify in both the Southeast and the Northeast. Branson ended up finishing second in a race in Virginia in order to qualify for the Northeast regional, where he finished in fifth to qualify for the national championship.
Once he made it to Loretta Lynn, Branson had a busy week of racing. He took part in three races. Each race had a point total associated with how you finished, which all added up to a final score. Pollard finished in 14th in his first race to get off to a great start.
"Our main goal if we made it to Loretta's was to have fun and have a good experience. I wanted to finish top 20," said the elder Pollard. "We got down there and Branson put it together and was really clicking with the track. He loved the track. The first moto, we were sitting in ninth place after the second lap. He went down and dropped back to 14th, but we knew that he was more than capable of finishing in the top 10."
Branson ran into some trouble in the second event, but showed a lot of resilience. He got bumped a bit in the second race, dropping all the way back to last place. He bounced back in the final five laps, climbing up from 39th to 19th, which made his dad extremely proud in the stands.
"In the second moto, he got pumped out of the gate and kind of saved it sideways. In the second corner, a kid ran up and kind of made an aggressive pass and took Branson's front end out," said Brandan. "So in that second moto, he was literally in 39th place. He battled back from 39th place to 19th in five laps, which is super unheard of. I was more than proud of him for that."
Pollard used the momentum from the tail end of that second race to finish strong, claiming eighth place in his final race to finish 13th overall.
"I told him to have fun and lay it all out on the line in that last moto and give them everything he's got," said the elder Pollard. "He moved into sixth place, had a little bit of a tip over that pushed him back to eighth place and he finished in eighth. We got 13th place, but he had two different motos where he was running in the top 10 and to do that with the rest of the country, I couldn't explain how proud I am of him."
Pollard doesn't plan on slowing down after taking part in the amateur national championship. He has a number of events planned for the fall, including the South Carolina State Championship and the Thor Mini O's, which is the Mini Olympics in Alachua, Florida.
"The whole way back he was talking about being ready to get back to work and get back to practice so he can be ready for next year," said Brandan Pollard. "They have the Mini Olympics in Florida the week of Thanksgiving and he's super pumped to get back to practice and start getting ready for that."
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