An interview with program director: Terry Ritter
What were some highlights of year four for the program?
We were able to win a number of local road races in the Elite class, on both the west and the east side of the state (Waterford and Grattan), with multiple juniors. 3 of them did the 2022 Iceman in the PRO class, with Jonathan Meyer getting 13th overall. Jon also raced in his first PRO criterium field at Tour of America’s Dairyland (ToAD). Charlotte raced up a junior class at ToAD and took 2nd in the 17-18 field for the 5 day omnium. Jack Kozlowski took 3rd in his Cat. 4 omnium as well. We also took a few wins in the Elite field for a couple of gravel events in Michigan, and had a few of our juniors score top 10 overalls. Katja Opfer (10th grade) won the MiSCA Varsity girls series, netting all 6 wins, while Charlotte Rosinski (10th) was 2nd and Lauren Schultz (12th) was 3rd in the series. James Meyer (11th grade) won a race and finished 2nd in the MiSCA Varsity boys series. And we had a split squad for Barry Roubaix, with 8 of our kids doing the Fayetteville USAC MTB National. The remaining 2 boys and 5 girls were able to win the team competition at Barry for a 3rd straight year and win the boys and girls overall. We also won the 15-18 Junior State Cyclocross Championships with Eli and Charlotte. Finally, Jonathan got 17th overall in the Hard Rock, 48 miler at Ore to Shore while Katja won the overall at the Short Rock event
How was this year’s team ambitions different from last seasons?
This was the first year we graduated a significant group from the program as September came, as we had 5 seniors in our 15 riders. Watching them progress from just a few years ago (and one of them from 4 years ago) was rewarding to see. This older group helped set the tone and we attended 2 National MTB USAC events as well as USAC MTB National Championships in PA. We also took 9 kids to ToAD, which was awesome. The seniors took a lot more responsibility in some areas which is part of what they experience on TAMJD. They left a good expectation for the younger riders.
Any news on the success of TAMJD alumni?
Three of our seniors, Jonathan, Hunter Post and Spencer Blaz, got cycling scholarships and are attending Fort Lewis College in CO, Kings College in TN and Lees McRae in NC, respectively. Elizabeth DeFauw, a past rider of ours, went to Bissell and is attending Marion College in IN this season. The fact they are competing in MTB and road while at school makes us all proud in the program. But the big news was Kellen Caldwell, who graduated from TAMJD 3 years ago, winning the College National Road Championships! I coached him the whole year until his performance there and a 5th at Green Mountain Stage Race caught the attention of a national level development team. Kellen is chasing his dream of being a General Classification rider for a professional team someday.
This off season we plan to have a monthly ZOOM meeting with the parents/kids to share some important information about various topics, like nutrition and sports psychology. We feel this will help the riders prepare for more success in 2024 and also keep them engaged throughout the downtime. We are also going to do some VO2 testing on most of the same subjects from last year this winter to see what growth they have made and get a better grasp regarding changes seen with the junior physiology. We are always tweaking the coaching offering and will also get a more detailed schedule for the season out that will help parent’s plan and also allow more group rides, which the kids enjoy. We’ll also be looking at maybe doing MTB Marathon Nationals and Gravel Nationals.
If you could dispel one myth about the program, what would it be?
Many coaches that I talk to from MiSCA teams feel our success at TAMJD is due to all our kids training together. That’s an important part when it happens, but is also pretty rare. The fact they are offered personal coaching through Athletic Mentors, which most take advantage of, is really where the secret sauce is, I’d say. The other thing is that we set a bar and do our best to keep the kids on task so that they can learn about meeting expectations they agree to. All of this is wrapped in an environment where we get them to feel comfortable trying new things in cycling (road, gravel, CX), and that keeps it fun and gives us more options as a team. Many people within MiSCA are surprised at how well our kids do on things other than MTB racing.
What are you most proud of looking back on the past four years?
We’ve had juniors here and there that we’ve worked with in TAM for a long time, but putting together a dedicated junior development program has been a challenge. MiSCA changed that by offering a lot of young MTBers, but we still had to work to do what we felt would make them most successful and also keep it fun. That was selling the values of personal coaching and trying different cycling disciplines. Both of those things have shown to be very beneficial for the kids goals and their enjoyment. To see that you’ve provided them with an opportunity no one else has makes management feel all the work we dedicate to the program is worth it.