OFF-ROAD RIDERHoover High graduate Trent Whisenant recently competed with the world’s best motorcyclists.
By Anne Riley
Photos by Dawn Harrison and Contributed
Not many people can say they started motorcycle racing at age 4, but Hoover High School graduate Trent Whisenant is one of them. Even at a very young age, Trent’s love for riding was evident – and it has only grown since then.
“He was riding with me on my bike when he was only a year or so old,” said Whisenant’s father, Phil Whisenant. “It wasn’t long before I realized he loved it. It was in Louisiana on an 85cc bike when it all came together for him and he went from a mid-pack racer to competing for the win.”
Early exposure to dirt bikes and motorcycle racing played a critical role in Whisenant’s passion for the sport. In fact, he doesn’t remember a time when it wasn’t part of his life.
“I have grown up around racing my whole life, and as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed motorcycles,” Trent said. “As soon as I was old enough to ride by myself, I started racing.”
Even though motorcycle racing is perceived as a dangerous activity, Whisenant has been lucky. The few injuries he has experienced have been minor, and in fact, the worst injury of his athletic career wasn’t even related to racing.
“His worst injury to date has come from playing football at Hoover High,” Whisenant’s father said. “He tore his ACL in the last regular season game of his junior year.”
Whisenant remarked that the times he has gotten hurt have only fanned the flame of his desire to ride more, simply because he couldn’t. Overcoming obstacles is important to him, even if it involves a little bit of discomfort – and there’s never been a challenge so great that he felt intimidated or discouraged.
“I have never had any low moments,” Whisenant said. “I have been fortunate enough to go most of my career without any major injuries, and even if I had a bad day at a race, in the end, I would still have a good time because I am doing what I enjoy.”
It’s this attitude – combined with a lot of hard work, of course – that enabled Whisenant to qualify for the 2017 International Six Days Enduro (ISDE) in Brive, France.
Known as the “Enduro Olympic Games,” the ISDE began in 1913 and hosts about 700 competitors each year. This year, 31 of those competitors were from the United States. It’s easily the most exciting and revered off-road motorcycling competition in the world – and Whisenant, in spite of his talent, was surprised he qualified.
“Honestly, I was a little scared,” Whisenant said, referring to the moment he learned he had made the cut. “Dad and I had just tried to qualify because the qualifying schedule was fairly convenient, and when I found out, I knew that I had a lot of work ahead of me to get ready.”
Whisenant’s father looks back on the good news with pride in his son, who struggled through a severe sickness leading up to the final three-day qualifier in Tennessee. The illness was so bad, it almost prevented them from going. Whisenant was sick all the way up to the race site and even during the first day of the event, but he didn’t give up. He won third place, landing him on the 2017 USA ISDE team.
“I knew he had a good chance to qualify, but this was his first attempt, and the AMA [American Motorcyclist Association] had made it a little harder to qualify for 2017,” Whisenant’s father said. “I couldn’t have been prouder of Trent when one of the AMA officials came to our RV after the third day in Tennessee and asked if we were ready to go to France.”
And go to France he did, with the help of his parents and additional support from multiple other sponsors and fundraisers. For the 2017 ISDE, Whisenant received support from Perry Mountain Motorcycle Club, Southern Enduro Riders Association, Acadiana Dirt Riders out of Louisiana, his ISDE team, First Line Motorcycles, and numerous individuals. His family also sold almost 150 ISDE shirts to help support his trip to France.
So, where does he go from here? After the ISDE, Whisenant has his eye on a few other events – specifically, the TKO Hard Enduro and other Hard Enduros around the world. He would also love to participate in the Baja 1000, since he has raced the Baja 500 with his dad.
Some parents might feel nervous or overwhelmed about their son competing in such a demanding, fast-paced sport, but the Whisenants see it as a tremendous privilege.
“We have truly been blessed,” said Whisenant’s father. “It has been very rewarding, being able to spend a lot of time with Trent traveling all over the U.S. to compete in off-road races throughout his life. I look forward to seeing him race with the best riders in the world.”