BETHESDA - Quick question ... can you name Belmont County's only active professional athlete?
If you said Daniel Herrlein, you're right.
The 20-year-old Bethesda native competes in the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series (indoor) and Lucas Oil Nationals (outdoor).
BETHESDA NATIVE Daniel Herrlein stands between a pair of his practice motorcycles. The 20-year-old is Belmont County’s only current professional athlete as he competes on the Supercross and Motocross national levels.
"Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever thought I would be where I am today when I got started," Herrlein said in a recent interview at his home. "I remember seeing the guys in the bigger classes going faster and told myself that I could never go that fast."
Never say never.
Herrlein got an early start in his sport. He started riding 4-wheelers at the tender age of 4. He then progressed to a Z-50 and began his racing career.
"My first race was out by Tappan Lake by what is now 250 Speedway," he recalled. "From there, I just kept on racing. It's what I do."
Herrlein, who attended Union Local High School until his sophomore year before being home-schooled the final three years, has improved 30 spots since last year.
"I'm getting better and better," he allowed. "My lap times are about 7-9 seconds behind the leaders, so I'm just trying to cut that gap down a little and get closer to the guys up front."
He runs the 250 Lite series, which is split into East and West divisions. He's in the East, which takes him to big cities all over this half of the United States.
"Last year I competed in Dallas, Houston, St. Louis, New Orleans, Indianapolis, Daytona Beach and Atlanta just to name a few of the spots," he said. "There are some big buildings, especially when you're standing down there on the floor before a race and the large crowds are filtering in. It's crazy and quite an experience."
An average crowd is approximately 70,000 fans.
When asked about the biggest difference is between Supercross and Motocross, with the exception of the indoor-outdoor aspect, he responded, "Motocross is a much bigger track, while Supercross is more technical and jumpy."
So how does a professional in his sport stay in shape.
"I go running and cycling, both on the road bike and the mountain bike. I've got a trainer at the gym in St. Clairsville and I go there four days a week."
During the winter, he trains at General Practice Facility in Cairo, Ga., thus the need for the aforementioned home schooling.
All of the above wouldn't be possible without the assistance of good friend, Hank Arnold.
"Hank is my main sponsor. Without him, I would never be where I'm at. He's my all-around guy. He buys all the parts; hauls my bikes to the races; he's my mechanic; and he's gets it (the bike) ready.
" My dad also tags along and helps out, as well. Without them, I wouldn't be able to do it."
What are his goals?
"In Supercross last year, I made two main events," he said. "This year, I want to make the main at every event I compete in."
His start will be on the west coast in the 450 class in January.
"I just want to get used to racing and everything that goes with it, so when the 250 class starts, I'll be comfortable and ready to go."
One day, he'd like to be as big a name as his idols, Ricky Carmichael and Jeremy McGrath.
North can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org