ELKO – As summers go, this past one was pretty special for 18-year-old
Spring Creek resident Taye Pepper.
In the spring he qualified to compete in the AMA Amateur National
Motocross Championship that took place July 29 through Aug. 3 at Hurricane Mills, Tennessee. If that wasn’t cool enough, he also placed second.
When Taye was a young boy he enjoyed watching his older brother ride his motorcycle. Taye’s parents bought him his first dirt bike when he was 6 years old.
“When I was eight I started desert racing,” he said.
Later he branched into motocross.
“We started following the local stuff and worked our way up to bigger races,” said his father, Jason Pepper.
“I guess I was out there riding with my friends and I liked the jumps a lot more,” Taye said. “It’s definitely one of the most physically demanding sports.”
“The bike weighs 250 pounds and he flings that around,” Jason said.
Taye enjoys the sport but he also loves the camaraderie involved.
“Riding with my friends is definitely the best thing,” Taye said. “You could never have as much fun racing as when you are riding with friends.”
Taye and his father have been focusing on getting him into the AMA Amateur Motocross Championship for a number of years. The event takes place at country music star Loretta Lynn’s ranch.
“There are 54 area qualifiers in the United States,” Jason said. “They start in February and go through May. Those, generally, are top 10. Then, it goes to regionals. There are 13 regionals from May to June.
"Generally, the fastest kids are in the West. He qualified at the hardest one at Hang Town in Rancho Cordova. Nearly 20,000 racers attempt to qualify in 36 classes for only 1,512 spots.”
“Loretta Lynn’s only allows two races a year, the motocross race for amateurs, and the week after they do the ATV race for amateurs,” Jason said. “There is no open practice.”
According to Jason, this makes the competition fair for all. The races were started in 1982.
Taye won eighth place, overall, out of 43 youth in his class. He also received the first-ever “hole shot” from Hoosier Tires at the event.
“It’s the first bike around the first corner,” Taye said about a “hole shot.” “And you’re the leader.”
He won four sets of tires for that, Jason said.
Taye also won second place and a silver medal on his third moto (race).
“Out of 42 kids, 42 of the fastest novice riders in the world,” Taye said. “They come from all over the world.”
When he finished that race he had no idea how well he had done.
“Honestly, there are so many kids on the track, it gets so messed up with all the crashing and stuff,” Taye said. “I came off the track and first place goes up on the podium and I pull into the track and I looked at my dad and my mechanic and they said, ‘Second!”
Taye was whisked onto the podium, but between the heat and the excitement he was pretty overwhelmed. Yet, he managed to say thanks to some of his supporters.
“I was just ecstatic,” Jason said.
Daniel Mahlke Signing
Spring Creek senior Daniel Mahlke signs his letter of intent on Jan. 9 to golf for the University of Jamestown in North Dakota. Mahlke the 2017 Division 3A Nevada state champion, will look to repeat in the 2018 and aid the Spartans in defense of their team state title from last season. Back row, from left: Mahlke's brother Dayton Scott and father Travis Mahlke. Front row, from left: mother Michelle Mahlke (holding little brother Larry Mahlke), Daniel Mahlke and little brother Max Mahlke.
Paige Nelms Signing
Spring Creek senior Paige Nelms signs her letter of intent in front of the Spartans' banner at Spring Creek High School on Jan. 10, electing to play softball at the University of Jamestown and follow in the footsteps of older brother Steven Nelms, who played football for the Jimmies. From left: Spring Creek High School Athletic Administrator Paul Allen, Andi Nelms, Paige Nelms and Spring Creek softball coach Chad Nelms.
Annika Criss signing
Annika Criss signs her national letter of intent on Jan. 24 at Elko High School to play collegiate golf for the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, Texas. Front row, from let: Elko varsity girls golf coach Jeff Sarbacker, Annika Criss and EHS Vice Principal Marc Suyematsu -- former varsity girls golf coach and current junior varsity coach. Back row, from left: Kelby Criss, Marla Criss and Kurt Criss.
Spring Creek's Jeff Guthrie takes down Battle Mountain's Tristin Cordingley in the fifth-sixth place match of the 195-pound division on Jan. 13 during the Spring Creek Kiwanis Invitational. Guthrie placed fifth after beating Cordingley for the second time of the tournament, claiming an 8-2 victory, and he went on to win the 195-pound state championship for the Spartans.
Lowry's Joe Peterson, top, is thrown high for a takedown by Spring Creek's Jeff Guthrie on Feb. 3 during the 195-pound final of the Division 3A North regional tournament. Guthrie escaped with a 6-5 decision for the championship.
Spring Creek's K-Ci Slade, top, pins Lowry's Anthony Peterson at the 4:48 mark on Feb. 3 to win the Division 3A North regional championship in the 182-pound division.
Spring Creek's Beau Chacon, left, hand fights on Feb. 3 with Lowry's Quint Bell during the 152-pound championship of the Division 3A North regional tournament. Chacon hung on just long enough to avoid takedown points for Bell in the closing seconds of the match, winning the regional title by a score of 3-1. He duplicated the result with a 3-1 win over Bell in the 2018 state championship, earning two points for a take-down in sudden victory.
Spring Creek's Anthony Chavez, top, drives Lowry's Andres Gonzalez to his back on Feb. 3 during the 145-pound championship of the Division 3A North regional tournament. Chavez blanked Gonzalez and won the regional title by a major decision of 9-0.
Spring Creek's Dyllan Fuchs, back, takes down Lowry's Bryan Day during the 138-pound final of the Division 3A North regional tournament on Feb. 3, in Spring Creek. Fuchs won the regional championship with by a major decision of 10-2. He then claimed his second state championship and the Spartans won their second-consecutive 3A state team title and are the hands-on favorites to three-peat this season.
Spring Creek's Josh Tripp, left, takes down Fallon's Mason Smith in the 120-pound championship on Feb. 3 during the Division 3A North regional tournament at Spring Creek High School. Tripp won the match by fall at the 5:05 mark.
Chase Milligan, Jacob Taylor
Spring Creek's Chase Milligan, left, is congratulated by teammate Jacob Taylor, right, as Milligan's hand is raised after defeating Taylor in the 106-pound final of the Division 3A North regional tournament on Feb. 3, at Spring Creek High School. Milligan finished as the state runner-up while Taylor took fourth at state, both returning to wrestle for the 2018-2019 season.
Spring Creek Spartans -- 2018 Division 3A North champions
The Spring Creek wrestling team gathers with its Division 3A North trophy and medals following the regional tournament on Feb. 3 at Spring Creek High School. The Spartans defended their regional title, had seven wrestlers win individual regional crowns and qualified 15 wrestlers for the state tournament. The Division 3A Nevada State Wrestling Championships will kick off at 9:45 a.m. Friday at The Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
Elko's Carl Hansen, right, picks up Lowry's Cade Billingsley on Feb. 3 for a single-leg takedown during the 170-pound championship of the Division 3A North regional tournament in Spring Creek. Hansen won the match by fall at the 3:34 mark for the title.
Elko's Kevin Villegas hangs on for dear life to the ankle of Lowry's Matthew Souza during an escape attempt on Feb. 3 in the 126-pound final of the Division 3A North regional tournament. Villegas scored the lone point of the match on an escape of his own and won the title with a 1-0 victory. The Indians finished third as a team and will send three wrestlers to the state tournament, including 170-pound regional champion Carl Hansen.
Spring Creek's Jake Oliphant, left, hits one of his two 3s on Feb. 6 against Elko at Centennial Gymnasium. Oliphant scored a game-high 20 points, and the Spartans ended the Indians' 71-game home winning streak with a 10-point victory of 61-51.
Elko's Gabe Rowley (4) crosses over on Feb. 6 against Spring Creek at Centennial Gymnasium. Rowley scored a game-high 24 points and the Lady Indians prevailed by a final score of 63-56 in overtime after a hellacious comeback by the Lady Spartans.
Lauryn Drake signing
Elko senior Lauryn Drake signs her national letter of intent on Feb. 7 at Elko High School, continuing her soccer career at the Division-I level for Alabama State University in Montgomery. Back row, from left: EHS girls soccer coach Michelle Nicholls, goalie coach Ace Cothrun and EHS physical education teacher Alice Digenan. Front row, from left: Dyann Rogers, Lauryn Drake and Chris Drake.
Dakota Larson, Jake Oliphant Signings
Spring Creek seniors Dakota Larson and Jake Oliphant present their letters of intent to play football for Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota, on Feb. 7 at Spring Creek High School. From left: Spring Creek head football coach Mike Tournahu, Jeff Larson, Dori Larson, Dakota Larson, Jake Oliphant, Jackie Oliphant, Jillian Oliphant, Roger Oliphant and SCHS football defensive coach AJ Wilson.
Spring Creek's Beau Chacon, left, battles for inside positioning with Lowry's Quint Bell during the 152-pound final of the Division 3A Nevada State Wrestling Championships on Feb. 9 at The Orleans Arena, in Las Vegas. Chacon won the state title by a final score of 3-1 in sudden-victory, and the Spartans capped their second straight team title with a score of 197 points, beating second-place Virgin Valley (99) by 98 points.
Elko's Kevin Villegas, far, squares off on Feb. 9 with Lowry's Matthew Souza in the 126-pound state final during the Division 3A Nevada State Wrestling Championships at The Orleans Arena, in Las Vegas. Villegas won the match 5-3 and earned his second state championship in the past three seasons.
Nevada's Caleb Martin throws down a thunderous dunk on Feb. 14, 2018, against Boise State, at Albertsons Stadium. He has been named a 2018 AP preseason All-American, the first recipient of the honor in program history.
Nevada's Kendall Stephens (21) hits one of his six 3s on Feb. 14 against Boise State, at Albertsons Stadium, in Boise. Stephens tied teammate Caleb Martin for the game high with 21 points apiece.
Spring Creek's Thomas Ledford (34) celebrates after grabbing a defensive rebound that sealed the Spartans' 57-55 victory over Fallon in the Division 3A North regional semifinal on Feb. 16 at Centennial Gymnasium. Ledford led Spring Creek with 16 points.
Elko's Lexi Baum, left, grabs a rebound, drives the length of the floor and draws a foul with 1.3 seconds remaining in the Division 3A North quarterfinal round against Fernley on Feb. 15 at Centennial Gymnasium. Baum nailed the first free throw, and the Lady Indians advanced to the semifinal round with a 52-51 victory.
Elko's Ryan Wickersham (12) scores on the break Friday against Fernley during the Division 3A North regional semifinal. Wickersham scored 12 points, and the Indians outscored the Vaqueros 41-20 in the second half en route to a 62-46 victory. The Indians qualified for their seventh straight state tournament and will bid for their seventh-consecutive regional title at 5 p.m. Saturday against Spring Creek at Centennial Gymnasium.
Elko Indians -- 2018 Division 3A North regional champs
The Elko boys basketball team gathers with the Division 3A North regional trophy on Feb. 17 at Centennial Gymnasium after beating Spring Creek in the regional final by a score of 55-44.
Elko boys basketball coach Chris Klekas cuts down the net and celebrates the Indians' seventh-consecutive regional championship after beating Spring Creek 55-44 during the Division 3A North regional championship on Feb. 17 at Centennial Gymnasium.
Elko's Ryan Wickersham (12) makes a free throw during the fourth quarter of the Division 3A North regional championship on Feb. 17 against Spring Creek at Centennial Gymnasium. The freebie capped Wickersham's game-high 18 points.
Wells' Amanda Murphy, left, drives the lane on Feb. 23 during the 1A state semifinal against Round Mountain at Lawlor Events Center. Murphy scored 10 points, and the Lady Leopards earned a berth in the state championship game by a final score of 47-26.
Wells' Jackie Berumen, center, drops a floater on Feb. 23 against Round Mountain during the Division 1A state semifinal at Lawlor Events Center. Berumen scored 10 points in the contest.
Elko's Alex Klekas gashes the middle of Lowry's defense on Feb. 10 at Centennial Gymnasium. Klekas scored 11 of his season-high 23 points in the third quarter. He was named a 1st-Team All-North and 2nd-Team All-State selection for the Indians.
Elko senior Jeron Yopps (33) makes a layup while drawing a blocking foul against Reed in the Indians' season opener during the Red Lion Tournament on Nov. 30, 2017, at Centennial Gymnasium. Yopps led Elko with 14 points and the Indians fought from behind for a 57-55 victory in overtime. He was selected as a 1st-Team All-North and 2nd-Team All-State player.
Spring Creek's Jake Oliphant (42) scores against contact on Jan. 20 against Fernley in Spring Creek, completing the three-point play from the line. Oliphant scored all 13 of his points in the first half, knocking down two 3s. He earned 1st-Team All-League and 2nd-Team All-State selections for the Spartans.
Spring Creek guard Jasmine Yadeskie (4) scores on an inbound pass from senior Kaitlyn McLeod on Jan. 2 against Elko, in Spring Creek. Yadeskie scored a game-high 15 points and the Lady Spartans won by a final score of 52-37. She was named a Division 3A North 1st-Team All-League and 2nd-Team All-State selection for the Lady Spartans.
Spring Creek's Kylee Dimick (11) goes up in traffic on Jan. 20 for two of her game-high 13 points against Fernley, in Spring Creek. Dimick earned a 2nd-Team All-North selection as a freshman.
Elko's Alexis Elquist lines up a three in the first quarter on Jan. 26 against South Tahoe, at Centennial Gymnasium. Elquist hit two 3s and scored 16 points in the first period, finishing with 20 in the first half and 22 for the game. She was named a 2nd-Team All-League selection of the Division 3A North.
Elko's Lexi Baum (24) drives to the bucket for a strong finish on Jan. 26 against South Tahoe, at Centennial Gymnasium. Baum finished in double digits with 10 points for the Lady Indians. She closed the season with a Division 3A North 2nd-Team All-League honor.
Owyhee's Kaylani Smartt (20) drives the baseline on Jan. 4 against the Lady Railroaders in Carlin. Smartt was chosen as a 1st-Team All-League selection of the Division 1A Northern-East.
Wells' Samantha Stumpf (1) pulls up and hits a baseline jumper on Feb. 24 against Pahranagat Valley during the Division 1A state championship game at Lawlor Events Center. She scored a game-high 20 points in the final. Stumpf was named a 1st-Team All-League player of the Division 1A Northern-East.
Owyhee's Macee McKinney-Cota (3) scores along the baseline on Jan. 4 in Carlin during the Division 1A Northern-East opener for each team. McKinney-Cota led all scorers with 12 points, and the Lady Braves cruised past the Lady Railroaders by a final score of 53-16. She was named a 1st-Team All-League selection.
Wells' Keegan Laughlin (13) drives the lane during the Division 1A state semifinal against Round Mountain on Feb. 23 at Lawlor Events Center, in Reno. She was selected as a Division 1A Northern-East 1st-Team All-League player.
Jackpot's Ricky Miramontes (2) leads the Jaguars in transition on Jan. 31 against the Wells Leopards, in Jackpot. Miramontes tied for the team high with 14 points and led the Jaguars with eight steals. He was named the Division 1A Northern-East Player of the Year.
Carlin senior Makai Haub (32) makes a big block against Owyhee in the second quarter on Jan. 4 in Carlin. Haub finished with game highs of 22 points, 16 rebounds and five blocks -- adding four assists and four steals. He was named the Division 1A Northern-East Defensive Player of the Year.
Jackpot guard Jerry Martinez shoots a free throw on Jan. 13 against Eureka, in Jackpot. He scored a game-high 17 points. Martinez was chosen as a 1st-Team All-League player for the Division 1A Northern-East, also earning an All-League Defense selection.
Jackpot's Eduardo Avila, right, drives against McDermitt defender Duane Masters on Jan. 27 in Jackpot. Avila earned a 1st-Team All-League selection of the Division 1A Northern-East.
Kaylani Smartt signing
Owyhee senior Kaylani Smartt signs her letter of intent at Owyhee Combined School to play college basketball for Benedictine University at Mesa. Back row, from left: Owyhee junior varsity coach Justin Streeter and Owyhee varsity girls coach Todd Tate. Front row, from left: father Lenville Smartt, Kaylani Smartt, little brother Hunter Smartt and mother Terajean Whiterock.