Full Throttle

Nate Kohnke races out of a turn in the Pro class heats in 2012 during the Motokazie Supercross at the grandstands of the Mower County Fair. Herald file photo

Nate Kohnke races out of a turn in the Pro class heats in 2012 during the Motokazie Supercross at the grandstands of the Mower County Fair. Herald file photo

Nate Kohnke remembers the first day he got on a motocross dirt bike. He was 10 years old and he felt like the happiest kid in the world.

Kohnke, who attended Austin High School, quickly began to learn how to ride from his dad’s best friend, Pete, but before he was able to learned everything, Pete passed away. Kohnke hasn’t forgotten about Pete, and he hasn’t forgotten about motocross either.

Nate Kohnke is photographed next to his ride at his home west of Austin. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Nate Kohnke is photographed next to his ride at his home west of Austin. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

“[Pete] was always really good at riding dirt bikes and he kind of got my dad into it,” Kohnke said. “I still pray to him and he’s not here, but he’s here with me. It helps me.”

Kohnke, 21, is now racing as a pro and took 17th in the last chance qualifier in the Spring Creek Pro Motocross National motorcycle race in Millville recently. The week before, he placed 73rd in the Last Chance qualifier in Red Bud, Mich. Kohnke had a lot of fans and friends wishing him well and congratulating him at his race in Millville.

Kohnke plans on racing in at least one more pro race this summer, and he will also ride at the Mower County Fair in the Motokazie Supercross at 7 p.m., Aug. 5 in Austin.

Getting use to the pro races has been a big change for Kohnke, but he’s working to get better.

“I want to keep going up and I want to keep trying to make the top forty,” he said. “Next year I’ll have a little experience under my belt. I’ll train a little harder and I’ll come into it knowing a little more about what’s going on.”

Kohnke said that motocross racing can be as much of a mental game as it is physical. After a crash, a rider must regain his confidence and that can vary, depending on the rider. Kohnke remembers breaking his leg in 2007 and missing an entire season of riding, but he’s been lucky enough to avoid serious injuries lately.

Competing in motocross also requires a lot of time, and Kohnke spends a lot of time with his bike. He works at R & S Grain Systems during the day, but he usually has plenty of work to do when he gets home.

“I usually give myself about one day off from dirt bikes per week, but other than that, they pretty much run my world,” he said.

During the colder months, Kohnke heads out to New Richmond, Wis., about once a month to ride on an indoor track, and he also rides snow mobiles to stay in the racing mood.

Kohnke, who raced dirt bikes throughout his younger years, said he tried to play a little hockey when he was growing up, but he never stuck with any sport besides motocross racing.

“I’m not good at anything else,” he said. “I can’t play other sports and I’ve never done other sports. I like watching other sports, but I’ve never really gotten into them and I don’t really want to.”

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