Breakthrough speed

Brienna Gomes has never wanted to be treated any differently when competing against men in moto-cross events.

The recent Baldwin High School graduate has been holding her own against all racers at Maui Motocross Park in Puunene since age 14, and actually welcomes the challenge because she knows that being cut off, crashed into or bumped on turns – the same as everyone else – will help in preparing for her ultimate goal of being a professional rider.

“I usually race in the men’s class,” Gomes said. “They treat me just like any other rider. They know where I want to be. I want to be at a higher level. They treat me like how the riders would treat me on the Mainland. They’re rough.”

The best shot Gomes has had so far at reaching her objective will come when she competes in the American Motocross Association amateur national championships, scheduled for July 28-Aug. 3 in Hurricane Mills, Tenn. She is believed to be the first female from Maui to qualify for the event, after winning a state qualifier in mid-March on Oahu and finishing second at the Southwest regional in late May at Anza, Calif.

“I feel a lot of pressure, but this is what I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember,” said Gomes, who will race in the 250cc women’s class at the national championship.

Gomes, who has been competing since age 7, hopes to get noticed by sponsors during the Tennessee trip. Her mother, Marlayna Gomes, said that the family spends more than $1,000 per year on entrance fees and bike maintenance. Bri-enna Gomes even sold a bike last year to have enough money to travel to races.

“She is investing into it herself,” Marlayna Gomes said. “She knows how much her family is investing in it for her to get there. It just makes her try even harder.”

While most of her competition at the national championship has been able to race more often and on different tracks, Gomes has done just about all of her riding in Puunene. The Maui Motocross Association holds races there every other month.

“I am the underdog. I’m at a disadvantage,” Gomes said.

At a race in Puunene against the men earlier this month, she won the open and 250cc A races and was runner-up in the 450cc A race.

“You find something you like and you want to get better at it,” Gomes said. “You just ride, practice, ride, race.”

Kyle Sakamoto is at