In between heats at Round 1 of the Monster Motocross Championships in February, siblings Richard and Mariana Wenden were seen trying to catch some shade. Their matching orange dirt bikes – Richard’s No. 31 and Mariana’s No. 33 – were parked outside the concrete quonset hut that served as their base camp. Inside, the riders removed their helmets and heavy shoulder pads, cooling off in preparation for the next round. Surrounded by a hive of activity, the 11- and 12-year-old siblings – both of whom had just finished first in their respective classes – seemed totally relaxed on the track.
And no wonder they did. The kids first hopped into the saddle of a motorcycle at about 3 years old and have been riding ever since. It was Dad – Tim Wenden, vice president of the Guam International Racing Motorcycle Association, the Guam International Raceway and ATV Club and former racer – that put them on bikes originally.
“I used to have a lot of fun riding when I was a kid, so, hopefully they can have the same enjoyment, just ride and have fun,” Tim said.
Originally from New Zealand, Tim and his wife, Anneliese, first came to Guam in 2003 for work and wound up staying for 18 years.
An accomplished rider himself, he was the Open Class champ of the Monster series two years running before an injury prevented him from returning in 2019. Dad and the kids haven’t been on the scoreboards together since then, but Tim said that he’s less focused on returning to the track than he is on supporting Richard and Mariana while they’re out there.
A bit of a star himself, Richard Wenden overtook competitor Lawrence Limtiaco in the 2020 race, and is the returning champ in the Kids Open Class. Cool and confident, Richard conveyed an easygoing attitude and focused on the race. When asked whether he had any trouble going through his first heat, he looked off for a bit and thought about it, saying nonchalantly, “Hmm, … not really.”
After setting out into his second heat, Richard Wenden stayed strong and kept up the momentum he had earned in the first. It wasn’t until the final stretch of his last lap that he ran into a bit of trouble, eating a face full of dirt that had been kicked up by the ATVs in the previous round and wobbling a bit.
“You almost ate it??” Tim Wenden yelled at his son, Richard.
“Where did you almost eat it?”
“Over there,” Richard Wenden said, pointing out the spot on the track,
“Aw, I missed it!” Tim Wenden told him, laughing a bit.
Older sister Mariana Wenden is no slouch on the bike either, she’s a solid competitor who has no trouble mixing it up with the boys. Outgoing and excited to be out for race day, she managed to take the bronze in 2020 in the 85cc class.
While she wasn’t able to keep the lead in the women’s class in her second heat, falling a step behind last year’s champion, Jessani Leon Guerrero, who could be seen zipping on a bigger 150cc bike, she was in good spirits all around and was hyped up to see improvements in her own performance,
“Jessani was smoking it,” Mariana Wenden said, “But ... she didn’t lap me, I’m getting better!”
The energy that she and her brother kept up was mostly their own, Tim Wenden said, adding “I push them a little bit, but mostly it’s just about having fun, really.”
Both kids are currently attending class online, and with no league or options for other sports through last year, motocross has been one of the only sports available. Richard Wenden said he didn’t seem to mind it too much, adding that racing was what he liked to do the most anyway. And Mariana Wenden said that the family was looking forward to this year’s Smokin’ Wheels, a big event that she was sorry to miss out on last year after it was canceled due to the pandemic.
They weren’t alone in turning to motocross for a chance to get outside. All around on race day, kids as young as 6 years old were zipping around and having fun on 50cc and 65cc minibikes.
Many are like the Wendens, where the love of getting the wind behind them was passed from parents to their kids, while others will be the first generation in their families to get a kick out of gripping tight on the throttle.