Nov. 8—This content originally appeared in the News and Tribune Sports Magazine, which is provided to subscribers.
Jaden Heeke was lying in a white hospital bed when he was 9 years old wishing to be anywhere but there.
He was in for a procedure to replace a damaged part of his trachea due to prior operations. After a successful surgery, Heeke was greeted by his loving grandfather, Jeff Fessell, who was beaming down at his grandson.
"My grandfather asked me: 'What gift do you want," Heeke recalls. "I said: 'I want a dirt bike."
Heeke was hooked from that dreary day in the hospital room and has continued his passion for riding dirt bikes.
In 2016, Jaden wrecked his trail bike riding with friends through a field.
"I swapped out and I lacerated my spleen," Jaden said.
But after a couple of months, Heeke was back on his bike and ready to continue riding.
After Jaden started riding, his middle brother, Jacob, wanted to try it out.
"I started when I was seven and Jaden got me introduced to the sport," Jacob said. "When I started riding a bike, my dad, Derek Heeke, went and bought my first 150cc."
Jaxton Heeke, 10, was the last of the three brothers introduced to motocross.
"My grandfather bought me my first bike at 5," Jaxton said. "Ever since he bought me my bike, my older brothers have inspired me to keep going. They have encouraged me along the way and I have followed them with various jumps."
FINDING A PLACE TO PRACTICE
The Heeke family, from Sellersburg, and other families drive to a track in Georgetown on Saturday mornings to practice.
The track is owned by Adam and Megan Youngers, who purchased a 15-acre property devoted to motocross riding five years ago.
"It's good because you get your training in and get introduced to Jesus Christ," Jaden said. "I knew about the faith but I wasn't introduced until I came here."
The track is made up of various jumps and curves along the way. At the finish line, riders have to go up a 75-meter hill to go through the start again. At first, the Heekes were scared of the hill but they have conquered their fears over time.
"The hill doesn't scare me as much anymore," Jaxon said.
During these practice sessions, Derek and Shaya Heeke help their sons get ready in the morning by getting their bikes out of their truck. Once the bikes are out, the three sons get their gear on and get ready to ride.
"Being involved in motocross is fantastic and the moto family is great no matter where you go," Shaya said.
A PARENTS' VIEW
The Heeke parents have watched their sons on various tracks since Jaden started when he was 9. They have traveled everywhere to watch their sons compete.
"We say a little prayer before every ride as they make their ways to the starting gate," Shaya said. "Watching them fly over our heads on a powerful machine, your heart stops for a second at every crash, while still yelling shake it off and go you hold your breath over every jumping corner. The sound of the motors fill you with adrenaline and worry, nothing makes us more scared and proud watching all three of them doing this sport that all three love."
The oldest Heeke started competing in motocross in 2019. In May 2022, Jaden placed 10th of 12 riders at Monster Energy Amateur National Motocross Championship qualifier in Sabree, Kentucky in the schoolboy ages 12-17 competition. Only the top six advanced to the finals.
Heeke added to his awards with fourth of 26 riders in the Open 'D' class at the Redbud MX competition in Buchanan, Michigan in 2022. A year later, the oldest Heeke won the Open 'D' class of 30 riders.
Meanwhile, Jacob placed 18th of 22 riders in the 9-15 age class at the Redbud competition. Jacob broke his leg last year at Redbud.
"I had a lot of people pray for me for a speedy recovery," Jacob said. "It took me sixth months to get back to riding."
Jaxton finished fourth of six in the 10-11 age group at this year's Redbud competition.
"If you want to be good, then you have to put a lot of hard work and effort," Jaden said about competitions. "You have to be dedicated and I have put in countless of hours to get better in this sport."