Southsider Voice correspondent
A few Christmases ago, Chris and Erin Percifield were shocked when their son, Tanner, turned his nose up at a small four-wheeler, his most special gift from Santa.
Tanner had his eye on his older sister’s bigger and faster four-wheeler.
“He always wanted to see how fast he could make it go,” Erin Percifield said of Tanner, now 10. “He always stopped really fast too, so he could make it skid. He was just barely 2 years old.”
It is no surprise to the family that Tanner has graduated from stomping on the go pedal of a battery-operated four-wheeler to revving the engine of his 65-cc Kawasaki.
Last year, Tanner began his racing career in the beginner class of Mid-American Cross Country Racing. He placed second in the regional championship competition.
When this season of Motocross racing began in March, Tanner was again in the mix. But this year he is an intermediate competitor with Indiana Cross Country Racing.
While competing at the Hendricks County Fairgrounds in July, Tanner lost control of his bike after a jump.
“I didn’t think I would go down, it just happened,” he said of that unfortunate moment.
Once on the ground, Tanner immediately realized that he was injured.
But he says his first thought was, “How long am I gonna be out?”
Erin says she isn’t an over-protective worry wart. But from her perch in the bleachers, her motherly instinct immediately kicked into high gear.
“As soon as I saw Tanner struggle to stand and wave his little hand at me, I knew he was in trouble,” she said.
Tanner’s right foot was broken in two places, requiring surgery.
However, a rest-of-the-summer bout with a couple of casts didn’t dampen this third-grader’s need for speed.
Recently, doctors finally allowed him to return to the sport he loves.
Just as they did before Tanner was injured, his parents still arm themselves with walkie-talkies and watch the competition from opposite ends of the 1.5-mile course.
Some parts of the race take Tanner into wooded areas where he and other competitors are no longer visible to the majority of onlookers. So that area is exactly where Chris Percifield watches the race and communicates with Erin and Tanner’s older sister, 13-year-old Olyviah.
“It is a 45-minute race and my heart is beating out of my chest the whole time,” Erin said.
With waiting for that green flag, he is usually nervous, Tanner said of how he feels right before a race. “But I’m always ready to go.”
In his younger years, Chris Percifield raced BMX bikes; Erin ran track and cross country.
“I guess racing is kind of in Tanner’s blood,” Erin said with a laugh.