07-18 Ryan Dungey hole shot 2 ols.jpg

Four-time AMA Pro Motocross national champion Ryan Dungey (5) leads the pack out of the starting gates during a race at Spring Creek MX Park in 2015. Dungey, a Belle Plaine native, will return to Spring Creek on Saturday as the Grand Marshal for the 2019 AMA Pro Motocross nationals.

Ryan Dungey’s resume has enough bullet points to fill an encyclopedia.

The Belle Plaine native won nine AMA national championships in supercross or motocross. His 80 combined overall victories in AMA motocross and supercross are the fourth-most of all time. He won ESPY awards as the Best Male Action Sports Athlete in 2015 and 2016.

And he became the first motocross rider to grace the cover of a Wheaties box.

But Dungey gets most excited when asked about his formative days in the sport, the early 2000s, when he grew up racing every week against his friends at tracks that were a matter of hours from his home.

At the top of that list: Spring Creek MX Park in Millville, the sight of some of Dungey’s greatest accomplishments as an amateur rider, and as a pro.

“We all grew up racing there,” Dungey said. “It was so much fun. Then, just being able to race there as a pro was awesome, such a cool experience and feeling.

“And to be able to win as a pro in your home state, one of your home tracks, we all celebrated together as Minnesotans. It boosted my morale and the morale of the fans and up-and-coming riders in Minnesota, to see what’s possible.”

Dungey retired from competitive riding in May of 2017 as a three-time AMA motocross 450 Class national champion and a four-time supercross 450 national champion.

But retirement hasn’t kept him away from race tracks around the country or in his home state. He’ll be back at Spring Creek on Saturday to serve as the Grand Marshal for Round 8 of the 2019 AMA Pro Motocross national championship series.

It was the site of his pro debut, back in 2006.

“From what I remember, I was really excited and really nervous that day,” Dungey said. “It was my first (pro) race. I’d dreamed since I was seven years old of being a pro racer.

“It was surreal. It was really exciting, but distracting in a way, with so much family around, so I just tried to have fun with it.”

He placed seventh overall that day in the 250 class, the start to one of the greatest pro careers ever. He was teammates that day with another all-time great -- perhaps the all-time best racer -- Ricky Carmichael.

“It’s amazing, I got to be teammates with the best-ever in our sport,” Dungey said. “My time with him was invaluable. We spent a lot of time together in Florida after his retirement (in 2006). He was always supportive. He knew that pressure of being a rookie and always tried to keep the mood light, which was unknowingly good for me.”

To this day, Carmichael is known as the GOAT — Greatest of All Time — among motocross followers, having retired as a seven-time AMA 450 motocross champion and a five-time 450 supercross champ.

Dungey’s numbers put him right in the conversation as one of the best ever, and though he has left competitive riding to the next generation of stars, he still is involved in the sport. He also has become an ambassador for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a world-renowned facility in Memphis, Tenn., that specializes in pediatric cancer treatment and research.

Dungey was named St. Jude’s 2019 Ambassador of the Year, having raised more than $1 million for pediatric cancer research over the past seven years through his annual St. Jude Ride & Run 5k. The eighth annual fundraiser is set for Sunday in Hastings, and includes a 5k run, as well as a 20-, 40- or 60-mile bike ride.

“It’s really cool to see how all of our hard work is paying off,” Dungey said. “This is our eighth year and it’s taken a lot of people doing a lot of work to get to where we are.

“The award is cool, to be rewarded is awesome, but we do it on behalf of those cancer patients. The event is growing every year and doing a lot of good for St. Jude.”

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Sports Reporter

Jason has been a Post Bulletin sports reporter and columnist since 2004 and covers high school football, volleyball, softball, golf, hockey, junior hockey and auto racing. He is a 1999 graduate of the University of North Dakota.