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.


How Mountain Biking Has Enhanced My Life

February 15th, 2022 by JoAnn Cranson

By: Elizabeth DeFauw

Hello! My name is Elizabeth DeFauw and I am 17 years old. I am a junior (11th grade) in high school taking online courses from Home School Legal Defense Academy (HSLDA) and Memoria Press Academy. Homework fills, 8-10 hours,  of my day with studying, quizzes, tests, and several various homework assignments. It is not fun to study but…  my free time is always amazing! I spend my precious free-time cycling, skiing, seeing my amazing friends, reading Scripture and praying, or hanging out, playing games with family. I absolutely love to be active in almost any sort or fashion. Before I got hooked on biking, I had tried multiple different activities and sports, such as Krav Maga Israeli war/self-defense, dance, swim team, and such. None of them can be compared with biking (and skiing).

I am currently a Varsity rider in MISCA. I started racing in 2020 for Huron Valley United Racing and achieved 2nd overall in Junior Varsity and advanced to Varsity in Orange Krush Cycling Club for 2021 season. I earned podium twice in Varsity, 4th in Heritage Park Race and 5th in the Milford Time Trial. I won the fall 34 miles Lowell Classic, which was my first gravel race. It was a super muddy but absolutely amazing race!

Lowell Gravel Race

I was prompted twice to join Team Athletic Mentors and did. I am excited to be a part of the group, especially after meeting everyone officially and personally. I hope to continue to develop as a rider, achieve goals, and inspire others to pursue their passion. Team Athletic Mentors has already encouraged me to train harder! I will do my best to contribute and encourage the team I am now a part of and represent.

4th Place Finish

How I Got Into Mountain Biking:

Note: During this time, in 2020, the covid-19 lockdown took place. This stopped several activities I enjoyed because of their restrictions.  This made life extremely isolating, difficult, “inactive,” and kind of depressing since everything I used to do and the people I used to be with was stripped away. However, as I have learned, the conclusion of my former life was for a new and good purpose. 

I was introduced to mountain biking in July of 2020 during one of the two usual family week-trips to the Upper Peninsula. We met up with a few longtime friends and they invited me to go riding with them on the Point Trail in Copper Harbor. At first, I was a bit nervous because I had only ridden a few trails in the Lower Peninsula, and I knew they had been riding for years. All anxiety altered into exhilaration and a feeling of freedom at the start of the flowy downhill. The trail was decently technical for a “first ride,” but I managed almost every section. I threw any potential fear behind me (I do not remember being afraid once) and dove right into anything thrown at me. We reached the end of the Point Trail (half-way point for the trip), ate, and looked for agates (I am a rock-hunter).  We continued our journey back to town. It was mostly uphill going back. Endurance and solid effort were required, but I thoroughly enjoyed the feeling of endurance and proceeded onward.  After the ride, I felt on fire (both figuratively, and, for my muscles, literally)! I completed 20 miles that day. We also went riding the next day and, afterward, was encouraged to join MISCA, which I did with much enthusiasm. I was driven from then on, feeling like I had something to strive for; something I could put my passion and competitive nature into.

Biking is more than a sport to me. It significantly changed my lifestyle and mindset for the better. Through cycling, I have met amazing people (some of which I would consider to be good friends) and have had some of the best experiences of my life! It has inspired me to  push myself to go beyond my limits to achieve goals. This is not just confined to athletic goals, but also career and personal goals. I was determined then, but I feel all the more determined now.  I’m looking forward to an incredible 2022 year!

 


Lessons From the 2021 MiSCA Season

October 27th, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Joel Bretzlaff

I’m a member of Athletic Mentors Junior Cycling Team.  I participated in the Michigan Scholastic Cycling Association (MiSCA) is a youth-only race series that takes place in the fall, offering a variety of categories for racers in 1st-12th grade.  They focus heavily on getting more kids on bikes, but also offer extremely competitive high school racing.  This season I raced in the 9-10th grade category.  I have been racing in MiSCA since 2016, and I always look forward to this chapter of my race season.  For the MiSCA races, I race under Orange Krush Junior Race Team.

Race #1: Heritage Park – This year, the season opener took place at Heritage Park in Adrian, Michigan, on August 29th.  The course was quite tight, and cornering was the most important skill to have.  The first sprint start of the year is always the most hectic, and I rode into the fourth position as we entered the woods.  I noticed that the leader was starting to open up a gap on the next two riders in front of me, so when we broke out onto a two-track climb, I seized my opportunity and passed the second and third riders.  From here, I was able to get onto the wheel of the leader.  We held a ~10 second gap for the first two miles of the race.  Eventually, as we approached the longest climb of the course, I moved to the front and broke away from the pack.  Over the remainder of the first lap, I extended my lead, which was over thirty seconds as we crossed through the start/finish area.  Nothing changed over the second lap, where I pulled out another thirty seconds and took the win.  This race taught me how to ride during a breakaway.

Race #2: Addison Oaks – On September 12th, MiSCA traveled to Addison Oaks, a wide open, fast course with many straightaways.  I went into this race as the series leader, and I led into the woods after the final sprint.  On the first climb, I allowed someone to pass as I did not want to set the pace.  I drafted the rider in front for much of the first lap, but as we reached a pavement section, two riders behind me powered around the leader and I and pushed the pace until we re-entered the woods.  This placed me in fourth position, and I was doing everything I could to get around the two riders in front of me and get onto the leader, who was beginning to pull away.  I got around one rider, but couldn’t get around the other until the grassy start/finish area.  At this point, I was very worn out, and started to lose position as the race went on.  I ended up with a fifth place finish and learned the importance of positioning, due to the amount of energy I used just to move up a couple positions in the trail.

Race #3: Merrell Trail – One week later, we traveled to Grand Rapids to race at Merrell Trail, a race with long climbs and technical descents.  Off the start line, I noticed that my drivetrain was skipping gears, so I dialed back my pace on the long, grassy opening section.  I entered the woods in fourth position, and the leader was already pulling out a major gap on the first long climb.  We quickly caught up to the rider in front.  On a tricky corner, I slid out and nearly ran into a tree, but I got back to the leaders.  The four of us started to open up a gap, then the first rider crashed and the other two and I got around him.  Eventually, the leader started to pull away, and after some attempts, I moved into the second position and began to chase.  When we came to Sawtooth, a ridiculously technical downhill section, I completely closed the gap.  I rode the wheel of first place until we came to a long climb near the end of the lap, where I was dropped.  As I came through the start/finish area, I was informed that I was behind by ten seconds.  I worked to pull this back over the second lap, and completed this comeback on Sawtooth.  The race came down to a sprint finish, but I wasn’t able to overtake my competitor, and was second by 0.4 seconds.  I now know just how much of an advantage leading into a sprint can offer.

Race #4 Bloomer Park – With the Bloomer Park race quickly approaching, the rainfall was coming down hard.  On September 26th, it was clear that the race conditions were going to be a disaster.  The start/finish area was a complete mud pit.  Even though I struggled in the mud on the wholeshot, I led into the woods.  One rider held onto my wheel, and third place was about 10 seconds back.  When we came to Art’s Lungbuster, a four minute climbing segment early in the lap, I slid out in the mud after clipping a tree with my handlebar.  I couldn’t clip in for a few seconds due to mud on my cleats, and by that time, the third place rider had already caught up to me.  The two of us worked hard to close the gap to first, but it was clear that it was an impossible task.  As we came through for our third lap, the rider I was with overtook me.  I held his wheel for half a lap, but ended up slowing down and landing a third place finish.  After this race, I further understood the importance of riding a clean race.

Race #5: Milford Trail Time Trial – The October 10th stop of the MiSCA season was a time trial this year due to trail and field limitations.  Racers were sent in series standings order at fifteen second intervals.  I pushed hard off the start line, trying to catch up to the rider in front of me.  As the first lap went on, it was all I could do to keep them within my sights.  I pushed on the second half of the lap, and came through the start/finish area with a six second lead.  However, by this point, I was completely gassed and my pace slowed.  I knew that my race was now about holding off the third place rider.  As I broke out onto the final sprint, my teammates informed me that the race for second was close, and urged me to push it.  I sprinted with all I had, and ended up 0.3 seconds ahead of third place.  This race taught me that some days are not meant to be and that risking more positions to try and ride for a win is not always the best idea.

Race #6: Cannonsburg Ski Area State Championships – For the state championship race of the 2021 season, MiSCA selected Cannonsburg Ski Area.  This course is jam-packed with brutal climbing throughout the course.  My category was only completing one lap, so my strategy was much different going in.  Due to time restraints from camping the weekend of the race, I did not have an opportunity to warm up, but still fought my way into second position during the wholeshot.  After five to ten minutes, I was finally feeling warmed up, and the pack was thinning out behind the leader and I.  Two riders were still holding on, but one of them dropped off at one of the large climbs about twenty minutes into the race.  I was in the middle of a pack of three as we continued to ascend our way around the ski hill.  Nearing the final sprint, I almost went off the trail on the last corner, and lost about 1 second before we broke out of the woods.  The end of the race included a 200 foot grassy climb straight up the hill, and wet, tight switchbacks all the way down.  When the climb opened up, I made my move and overtook the race leader.  I pulled with everything I had, but one racer was still on my wheel at the top of the climb.  At one point during the descent as I was trying to recover for the very end of the race, I was almost overtaken, but I held onto my lead and took the final sprint.  This race taught me the value of allowing another rider to control the race and sticking to a plan.

I finished the season with a second place in the series, and I can’t wait to race Varsity next year!


Racing and Riding as Part of a Team

September 29th, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Jonathan Meyer

My name is Jonathan Meyer, and I am going into my junior year of high school and have just joined Team Athletic Mentors. Prior to this, the only team I raced with was my Lake Orion High School team, which is only really in effect during the fall season when the Michigan Scholastic Cycling Association mountain bike race series takes place. Outside of this time, there is not much support or action from the high school team, so for the most part I was alone, outside of my parents. That being said, I still enjoy being a part of my MISCA team very much.

Shortly after starting my sophomore year, a member of Team Athletic Mentors that I raced with during the school season recommended that I apply to the team. I thought, “Sure why not? It would be nice to be part of a team for the rest of the year other than the fall.” After that I filled out and submitted an application, and then had an interview for the team with Mr. Terry Ritter. After that I attended the team zoom meeting and then my first race as part of the team!

The first race I did was the Dirty Thirty gravel race, and despite being a brand-new member of the team, everybody was really friendly and talked to me before, during, and after the race. It was really cool!

Then, after that, I participated in my first team event other than a race, which was a youth development team ride beginning at Kensington Metropark and riding to Island Lake Recreation Area. During this ride I got to ride with and get to know many of the other juniors on the team better, and it was really fun! Usually in the spring and summer I have to do all of my rides alone. But now I’m on a team with riders that are similar speeds and even faster than I am! It’s much more fun and exciting than riding alone.

I have participated in ten races this year as part of Team Athletic Mentors, but one of these stands out above the others: The Cowpie Classic gravel race. I had been looking forward to this race for most of the preceding month, and when the day came, I felt well prepared and ready to race! During the race director’s talk before the start, they informed us that there were heavy storms in the area the night before, and racers should watch out for fallen branches and debris on the road. With that in mind, the race started and I managed to stay with the lead group all the way going into a section through a farm and the woods where I dropped my chain after hitting a big hole at the bottom of a downhill. Despite that, I caught back up to the front of the race besides a small breakaway that went up the road.

Throughout the race, all the way up to about mile 30, we kept seeing small pieces of tree or branches on the side of the road. At mile 30, I was in a group of about 20 other racers including Mr. Ritter, Ross DiFalco and Jared Dunham. The group crested a hill and started going down a large descent at about 25 mph. This road was covered in branches and leaves, and right in front of me, as I would learn in about 3 and a half seconds, there was a very big log in the middle of the road. It was about five inches in diameter. Before I knew what was happening, I had hit the log and had hit the ground and slid about ten feet from where I originally impacted. Mr. Ritter said that after I hit the log there was a loud cracking noise, which I later learned was my rim breaking. After I crashed, Mr. Ritter, Jared, and Ross had all stopped to see if I was okay. Mr. Ritter waited with me until my dad got there to call for help, and Ross waited with me all the way until we walked to an intersection where I could be picked up by a family friend. The support I received in the race before the crash, after the crash, after the race, and resolving the complications that occurred as a result of the crash was incredible. I am very grateful for the help of all my teammates and Team Athletic Mentors as a whole to get me and my bike patched up again after my crash.

Team Athletic Mentors has also provided me with the resources and coaching to improve my riding and help achieve my goals in the sport. Recently, I have started learning and training with Mr. Ritter as my coach and I am very excited to see where that takes me.

In summary, from my time as a member of Team Athletic Mentors I have learned that with your riding and your racing, teammates first and foremost can provide vital support and encouragement, and also add an extra element of fun and enjoyment to your time on a bike, or anywhere else for that matter.


A teen’s prospective: Accidents happen and Goals change

May 28th, 2020 by JoAnn Cranson

By Hunter Post

As a teenager in my third season in 2019, I decided that I wanted to start training more in order to improve. Even though I still had school during the day, I tried to ride every evening to get my miles up. My goal for the season was to win overall in the MiSCA JV category.   Michigan Scholastic Cycling Association (MiSCA) is focused on the coordination of youth mountain biking teams and races throughout Michigan for elementary, middle, and high school-aged students.

About a week after school got out, I went up to Michigan Tech to participate in a mountain biking camp. During the camp, we rode the Tech trails, Copper Harbor, and the Adventure Mine. Doing this camp drastically improved my handling skills and stamina. After the camp, I felt connected to my bike and unafraid to ride anything. I was grateful that I had the opportunity to do this camp, and I felt ready for the upcoming races.

Over the summer, I raced in several MMBA races, including Fort Custer, Hanson Hills, Island Lake, Pontiac Lake, Sweat Shaker, Big M, and Glacial Hills. I love doing these races because I feel that they give me a head start preparing for the MiSCA races since they are longer and more challenging. In September, I completed my first century ever. I rode my mountain bike and did Milford trail, Highland, Island Lake, Proud Lake, and Hickory Glen. I was really excited to ride that many miles, but I underestimated how hard it would be to keep pushing. I felt that completing this ride made me a better rider and showed me what hard work really is. Around this time, the MiSCA races finally kicked off. 

My MiSCA race season did not go as expected. I had a good first race at Addison Oaks, coming in second.  My second race did not go as I planned, and ended my season. During the second MiSCA race at Fort Custer, I fell and broke three of my fingers. I was devastated that I would not be able to finish my season or complete my goal of winning the series. I was in a cast for around a month, and during that time I could only ride my trainer. Riding my trainer was not a fun experience, since it wasn’t a smart trainer and I couldn’t interact with anyone. I lacked motivation, but I did my best to put on some miles. During this time, I set a new goal to do my best at Iceman. Once I had my cast off, I had to wear a splint for an additional month. I was not supposed to ride until I was fully healed, but I started riding again in order to prepare for Iceman. 

Preparing for Iceman was very tough, I was getting ready for ski season to start, and I had to try to make up for a month’s worth of riding.  It was difficult to keep riding even though I knew that riding more would help me perform better at Iceman. I was ready for bike season to end and ski season to start. The weekend before I was cleared to start riding again, I did my second century.  I just hoped that all of the training that I had done earlier in the season would carry me to a successful race.

Racing Iceman was a very interesting experience. It was my longest race, and I was not as prepared as I would have liked to be after the injury. I also did not bring any food or enough water. In the end, I finished fourth in my age group, and I now know that to sustain a good pace, I need more water and food. I was slightly disappointed with my performance, I felt like if I hadn’t had my injury I could have done much better.

At the end of my third season, I learned that I have to train as hard as I can, while I have the opportunity, in case I am not able to ride. I need to make the most of the time I have to train, because life is full of surprises and I don’t want to be unprepared. I also learned that goals can always be changed, if I am unable to fulfill my goal, I can always set a new one and work for it. Goals are an amazing way to motivate me to be my best, but I need to remember that they can always change.



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