Finding Balance from a Junior Athlete

May 9th, 2022 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Nya Caldwell

Hello, my name is Nya Caldwell and I am 14 years old. Currently, I’m a 9th grader at Milford High School. I have always been a multi-sport athlete and have been riding bikes for as long as I can remember. This past fall I was on my high school’s scholastic mountain bike team, which is a combined team made up of cyclists from surrounding high schools.

In the winter I transitioned to boarder cross, (or snowboard cross). Boarder cross is a snowboard competition, where 4-6 competitors race down a course simultaneously. This was an exciting new sport for me, which allowed me to expand my snowboarding skills along with providing a different racing experience.

Everyone in my family either races, or rides for enjoyment. When I was 9 I joined Huron Valley Mountain Bike Club. We met every Thursday night for rides and to work on skills. This experience introduced me to MiSCA and mountain bike racing. That fall I had my first race, and it was at Island Lake Recreation Area. I didn’t know what to expect, but it ended up being really fun. That was the start of my love for racing. In 7th grade I was the MiSCA Middle School State Champion, and in 2021 I achieved the MiSCA JV State Championship title.

For the upcoming school year, I will be competing on HVUR’s Varsity team, and my goal is to have a strong season with a few podium finishes. I am excited to be competing alongside a great group of friends and cyclists.

This is my first year with Team Athletic Mentors. I first became aware of the team a few years ago, through my cousin Kellen. His success has inspired me to reach a higher level in cycling. My goal for my high school cycling career is to keep progressing to the next level in the sport. I love riding trails, so I would love to become better at skills. I want to challenge myself mentally and physically, which will help me in many aspects of life outside of cycling. Coming into this cycling season, I am hopeful that the demands of my other sports activities will allow me to transition smoothly back into cycling. I wasn’t able to put many hours into off-season training on my bike, but have confidence that my other athletic endeavors will help me get up to speed.

Last month I participated in my first gravel race, Barry-Roubaix. This was also my first race as a part of Team Athletic Mentors. It was a freezing cold day, with temperatures dipping into the 30’s, strong winds, and snowy weather conditions. Before the race we gathered as a team for a warm-up ride. Right away, I knew that I didn’t have the proper gloves to keep my hands warm. My hands were getting stiff, and painfully stinging. This was after only being on the bikes for 4-miles! This wasn’t going to work for an 18-mile race in winter-like weather. Luckily, a very helpful gentleman in the team tent lent me his gloves, which worked much better for me. Lesson number one, come prepared for everything and try out your gear before race-day!

It was so cool to line up at the start as a team. There were a lot of juniors in black and yellow kits and we were all experiencing the race-line jitters together. Everyone was so supportive of one another, offering advice and positive words of encouragement. It was such a great experience and all of my teammates were so supportive. The race was a huge success for the team, winning the junior team division. I managed to pull off a first in the 18 and under female category, which was an unexpected result. I was happy with how the race went and look forward to coming back next year.

The thing that I enjoy most about racing is the rush that I get after the ride. Often butterflies and anxiety can be distractions leading up to a race. I like to listen to my favorite playlist beforehand to help calm my nerves and get me hyped up. Once I take off from the start line I try to focus on a good cadence and any riders ahead of me. When the race is over, I always have a feeling of relief knowing that no matter the outcome I tried my best.

This Spring, I am on my school’s JV lacrosse team and on the Athletic Mentors Junior Development Team. Balancing multiple sports throughout the year, and the academic demands of high school can be challenging. However, participating in many different athletic disciplines is a lot of fun and I enjoy them all. The key to success is finding the right balance.


The Goals of a Junior Cyclist

March 14th, 2022 by JoAnn Cranson

By  Joel Bretzlaff:

Hello, my name is Joel Bretzlaff, and I am 15 years old.  I’m from Highland, Michigan, and I am a Sophomore attending school at Charyl Stockwell High School.  I have been cycling for 10 years.  Right around the time I was born, my dad started mountain biking with some of his coworkers, and as soon as I was able, he got me out onto the trails.  

A few years later, I rode in my first race through MiSCA, and I have been racing MiSCA ever since.  This season, I will be racing in the Varsity category for the Orange Krush Junior Race Team, and I’m aiming to attain a podium finish at least once, and achieve a top-10 finish at all 6 MiSCA races.  MiSCA is a huge part of my life, and I love that I am able to be a role model for younger racers in the MiSCA organization.

I am entering my second season as a member of Team Athletic Mentors.  Last year, I joined the team for a multitude of reasons.  TAM has allowed me to ride and race with other young cyclists that share my passion for the competitive aspect of cycling.  It has also enabled me to build connections in the cycling community and gain access to resources that help to boost my cycling career.

This season, I have the opportunity to race USA Cycling mountain bike nationals in Winter Park, CO.  I am looking to represent Michigan and my goal is to place within the top 10 for 15 year olds.  The biggest challenge will be the altitude, as the race course is over 9,000 feet above sea level.  I have never ridden at a major altitude before, so it will be difficult not knowing how my body will handle those conditions.

While I am a mountain biker first, last season, I rode and raced on the gravel for the first time.  I find it is a great way to train, and I enjoy gravel adventure rides.  My first gravel race was the Dirty 30 50 miler, where I learned the value of sticking with a group, which I didn’t do very well at that race.  Later into the season, at the Waterloo Grit and Gravel and the Cowpie Classic, I rode much more complete, tactical races, and I experienced better results than at the Dirty 30.  I look forward to racing a handful of gravel races this season, including Barry-Roubaix, where I will be racing in the 18 mile team competition along with my Junior Development teammates.

Another major aspect of my cycling life is my part time job at Cycletherapy Bicycles in Waterford.  This position has allowed me to be involved within the bicycle industry, and explore other possible career paths relating to cycling.  I have also been learning many things about bicycle repair, which is a crucial facet of any cyclist’s performance.  One of the best parts of my job is meeting cyclists of all types from the area and seeing my friends that come in the shop.

In addition to cycling, I am also working towards attaining my Eagle Scout rank in Boy Scouts.  I have enjoyed partaking in Scouts over the years, and I recently completed my Eagle Scout project, where I put in a fire pit, woodshed, and benches at my church. 

I have been putting in the hours on the trainer this winter, and I cannot wait to suit up in my race kit once again at the end of March.  Outdoor riding is more appealing with every trainer ride I complete, and I am wrapping up the winter service/ upgrading of my mountain bike.  Cycling is my passion, and I look forward to making great strides in my cycling career during the 2022 season!


Catching up with Eli

November 8th, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Elijah Garris

Hello, my name is Elijah Garris, but most everyone calls me Eli.  I’m in the 8th grade and currently attend Muir Middle School in Milford MI. In the 2020 cycling season I started to practice and race for my scholastic team Huron Valley United Racing. It was such a great time racing with my friends that I go to school with. I won the overall Middle School State Championship with 5 firsts and 1 second place. That following winter I snowboarded a lot with family and friends. My Dad set up a trainer in the basement so I could spin once in a while.

I was anxiously waiting for spring so I could get back on my bike. Early summer this year I started racing the Michigan Championship Point Series. The first race at Hanson Hills was incredibly hot, the next two were raining and miserable. I ended up racing 5 of the 7 races and won the 14 and under category overall. During this time Kellen Caldwell and his dad Dan suggested I apply for Athletic Mentors. Looking up to Kellen I was super excited to apply. Coach Terry Ritter surprised me at the Pontiac race that I would be part of the team. I ended the summer with the Ore to Shore race in Marquette MI. One of my favorite races for sure.

Once school started our MISCA race season was happening. Our team would practice 3 times a week and I would go out another time or two on my own. I started to jump in on a Tuesday night road ride with a cycling group near my house. I came out of the 5th race as Michigan Advanced Middle School Champion. But, there was one more race left at Cannonsburg. I was in a situation where if I didn’t race I would have held the title. If I raced and took 2nd to the 2nd place holder I would lose it. There was never a thought about not racing the final race. Unfortunately, I came in second that day. I was ok with the outcome because I gave everything I had that day and he wanted it just as bad as I did. I’ll be riding in the JV class next year as a Freshman.

As a team with Athletic Mentors we got a chance to race in the Barry Roubaix gravel race. We won the youth team competition with a prize of $1000. It was fast and fun. I enjoyed being part of such an amazing group of people. The team tent was busy and there was just a lot of positive energy. Can’t wait for Barry next year. I just recently raced Peak 2 Peak which was a lot of fun also. I have the Lowell gravel race coming up and have been training on the gravel. Lately I’ve been meeting up with fellow teammate Collin Snyder for a weekly group gravel ride. This is for getting ready for my first Iceman.

After Iceman I plan to spin on the trainer, ride outside if possible and snowboard with friends. I’m signed up for a bike mechanic class this fall, which I’m super excited about. I’m thankful and proud to be a part of Athletic Mentors. I’m looking forward to our team rides and coaching that is provided by our coaches. Most of all, can’t wait to roll up to the line in 2022!



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