Race to the top

Washougal motocross racer Levi Kitchen, 17, signs with ‘minor league’ team, trains with pros in Louisiana

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Levi Kitchen puts his 125cc bike through the paces during an MX camp last summer put on by retired Motocross legend Ryan Villopoto (not pictured). (Contributed photo by Jesse's Photos, courtesy of the Kitchen family)

A young Washougal motocross racer is one step closer to the big leagues after signing with the national motocross team.

Levi Kitchen, 17, signed with the River/Yamaha Motocross Racing Team over the winter holiday break.

“The team that just signed him is one of the top minor-league stepping stones, where they groom kids for the pro circuit level that you see on TV,” said Levi’s father, Paul Kitchen, who owns and operates Kitchen Electric with his wife, Sara, in Washougal.

Paul and Sara helped their son move to a motocross training facility in Louisiana over the holiday break. This is where Levi will train full-time for the upcoming national amateur season.

Epic relocation journey

Levi is now living and training at the Real Deal MX Training Facility in Kentwood, Louisiana, about one hour north of New Orleans, where the temperatures average between 60 and 80 degrees throughout the winter — perfect for motocross riding.

His mom and dad got him there over the holidays by driving their diesel motorhome and pulling a trailer loaded with Levi’s motorcycles 2,520 miles to the training facility.

Mother Nature didn’t make that epic journey too easy, the Kitchens said.

“We fought ice and snow for 1,000 miles — snow from Utah, through Colorado, New Mexico and even much of western Texas,” Paul said.

The couple flew home after the holidays, and now Levi is living in the family’s RV on his own and training five days a week with professional motocross coaches.

“He now has great equipment and all the factory sponsors, and we no longer have to transport his bike to events,” Sara said. “Fuel, motor building, suspension — it’s all taken care of.”

Following in his father Paul’s motocross-racing footsteps, Levi started competing in motocross at the age of 6. As a teenager, he has traveled the country, racing in the 125cc class.

Last summer, Levi finished second at the Loretta Lynn Nationals, the top amatuer race in the country, which is held each year on the country music star’s sprawling ranch in Tennessee.

“That performance really locked him into being able to get a contract,” Paul said of his son.

The older Kitchen never enjoyed the success Levi is experiencing, but Paul grew up near the Washougal Motocross Park and raced there as an amatuer until he married Sara and started building a family.

Both Paul and Sara attended Washougal High School, but because of motocross, Levi now attends school online through the Vancouver School District’s virtual program.

“The school thing? I’m just praying,” Sara said. “He’s got a few more months to wrap up U.S. history and English. I just want that diploma in hand.”

Levi frequently tells his parents that one day he’ll be able to pay them all back for all the financial and moral support they have given him through the years.

“We tell him it’s a good thing we are not counting on that,” Sara said with a smile. “Honestly, I just love watching him ride. He definitely has a talent. That is undeniable.”

‘I’ve never been this sore in my entire life’

Up until now, Levi has been successful racing without training in a gym.

However, his motocross training world just changed in a dramatic way. Now, he’s up before dawn to meet with his trainer and go through a strict stretching regimen before hitting the motocross track for three hours of intense riding.

After lunch, he hits the gym for weight training and even yoga.

“He just called me to say he’s never been this sore in his entire life,” Sara said of her son.

“I really think this type of training is the piece of the puzzle that’s been missing, because once he gets fit, he’s going to do really good,” Paul added.

Other then flying home next month for his 18th birthday, Levi will continue to live and train in Louisiana through the motocross season, which will take him all over the country.

He stays connected with his friends in Washougal mostly online where they fight zombies together while playing the popular video game, “Fortnite.”

“As long as it doesn’t cut into school study time,” Sara said.

Levi said his goal is to go professional, and return to the Washougal Motocross Park to compete against the best racers in the world.