About six weeks ago, Hampton, Virginia, teenager Karley Wyatt donned a sparkly red prom dress and wore her reddish-brown hair in an elaborate up-do, ready for a night of dancing.
The next day, she slipped into more comfortable wear—the orange, white and blue jersey, padded pants and helmet of her bicycle motocross uniform. Then she hit the dirt track, where the 15-year-old has become something of a stand-out, racking up a number of trophies and titles in just a few years in the sport.
The teen races her lime green Supercross Envy V5 at the Hampton BMX track, one of just five BMX tracks in Virginia and the only one in Hampton Roads. She’s grown to love the sport so much that she’s using her enthusiasm to spread the word to other girls.
As a Girl Scout, Karley last year earned her Silver Award, the second-highest award in Girl Scouts, by putting together an event to introduce girls to the male-dominated sport. Girls on Wheels offered a chance to learn about motocross, about bicycle maintenance (e.g. how to fix a flat tire) and about bicycle safety (e.g. how to use hand turn signals and why wearing helmets and not wearing headphones while riding is important).
“It was an awesome event,” says Kelli Townsend, the owner and president of Hampton BMX. “Karley took the initiative and is a good example for a lot of [girls] out there.”
A rising 11th grader at Kecoughtan High School in Hampton, Karley first got interested in BMX racing when her younger brother began riding. She thought it looked like fun—now it’s become more.
As a member of the Heroes Live Forever team, Karley has been ranked first among other 15-year-old girls in the state and third among all girls in the district. She races nearly every week, and has now taken up mountain biking.
Karley hopes to attend college on a cycling scholarship—such scholarships do exist at a handful of colleges, and collegiate motocross is gaining momentum across the country. BMX became an Olympic sport in 2008.
The fact that BMX attracts more boys than girls doesn’t matter to Karley, who wants to become a professional BMX racer. She’s one of approximately 40 girls who race in all of Virginia.
“This is my sport,” she says simply. “I like that I get to race the boys. And I beat them sometimes.”