SOLON– She’s been called, “The Wild Child,” and “The Rabbit.” You can call her Jada.
Jada Murphy of Solon is a young motocross phenomenon with a pile of trophies, plaques and other tokens of accomplishment that staggers the mind. And she’s only been racing for four years. Murphy started at the age of 6 after watching her friend Jason race at Hawkeye Downs in Cedar Rapids. “I liked it, so I wanted to do it,” she said. “They had a little Honda 50 (motocross bike) and my dad (Randy Murphy) bought it for me, and I started to get into racing.” Her first race netted her an eighth-place finish even though she admitted she was a little scared.
Since then she’s quickly moved through the ranks and has become a force to be reckoned with. “When we show up, everybody wants to beat this Number 8 (Jada),” said Randy Murphy. He explained when she started out he struck a deal with her. Once she won a feature race, he’d buy her a bigger and better bike. “I told her we’d go down to Hawkeye (Downs) with our friend and check it out. She rode a bike without training wheels when she was three, so I figured I’d get her a (motocross) bike and she just took right to it.”
After that, whenever she would advance to the next level of competition, she’d get an even bigger and better ride. “She kinda dominated all the boys there, and we just went from there and she just kept going and going,” Randy said.
The rough road to victory included earning points at Hawkeye Downs, competing in regional races, racing in other states and fighting and scraping her way to Loretta Lynn’s Amateur Motocross Championship, held on the country music singer’s ranch in Tennessee.
“It’s the biggest amateur nationals in the world,” Randy explained. “You’ve got to go through a qualifier and get a top-four finish.”
There are seven such qualifying races in each region with seven regions across the country. It all boils down to 28 girls ultimately qualifying for the national event out of 200-300 competitors. “It’s the top-28 in the United States,” he said, with racers coming from states like Georgia, Tennessee, Texas, Florida and California; where racers can practice outside year-round. “A lot of them are home-schooled,” he added. “That’s all they do. For a girl from the ‘cold country’ to make it there and to beat most of them, that’s pretty impressive.”
Murphy made it to Loretta Lynn’s this year with the goal of a top-10 finish, and came in eighth in the nation. Next year, she wants very badly to win it all.
In addition to the prestige, a lucrative sponsorship would come with the victory. “Team Green Kawasaki said if Jada wins Loretta Lynn’s next year, in 2015 when she becomes a senior rider, they’ll pick her up for a full ride,” Randy said. He pointed out confidently, “she’ll be the youngest girl ever to be riding for Team Green.”
When Jada turns 16, she’ll be eligible for her pro license and allowed to race in the pro circuit. “With sponsors and everything, she can make a very good living,” said Randy. “She’s got a very good chance at making a name for herself and a future in this sport.”
Already she has a long list of local sponsors: Precision Transmission, Teagle Construction, MS Trucking, Dairy Queen of Solon, Reggie’s Weenies, Advance Auto Parts, Harris Boyz Auto, Spenler Tire in Iowa City, Dodge Street Tire in Iowa City, Miller Farms and Alien Lawn Care. The Murphys are grateful for the sponsorships, which greatly help out with expenses as they travel the country to around 60 races each year.
Through it all, her academics don’t take a back seat. “She has to do good in school or she doesn’t ride,” Randy said. On the road trips, Jada does homework on the way and at the racetrack. A typical race weekend puts her and Randy on the road on Friday with practice on Saturday and the actual race on Sunday. Come Monday though, her schoolwork is done and ready to turn in.
Randy noted her teachers have been very accommodating and cooperative. The discipline needed to keep up with her studies fits with the discipline and mental toughness her sport requires.
It’s also physically demanding. Randy said motocross is considered to be the second-hardest sport in the United States. It also has its dangers. “In this sport it’s not ‘if’ you’re gonna crash, it’s ‘when,’” he said. “You will go down, you will get hurt, it’s just part of the sport.” Randy said safety is the No. 1 priority. “I know she’s well-trained by professional trainers and schools. She has the best teachers teaching her how to land, she has the best equipment (neck brace, chest protector, boots, helmet, gloves), we don’t spare any money for safety.” He added Jada and the other racers are protected as best they can be. “I’m not nervous at all on the sideline. She’s well-capable of doing what she needs to do.”
When asked what she likes best, besides winning, about motocross, Jada said, “having fun and beating most of the boys. I love doing the sport, it’s so much fun.”
In addition to motocross she is active in soccer, volleyball, softball, gymnastics and basketball. She practices for nearly three hours every week and has a daily workout regimen. “She’s just very competitive,” Randy said.
As she rolled around shooting baskets while riding a RipStik (two-wheeled skateboard) Jada offered the following advice with a big smile. “Anyone out there who likes the sport, keep on doing it and you’ll get as good as me.”