“I had a problem. It lay out in front of me in the form of my school backpack, a large suitcase, and a gigantic, 60-lb. bike bag that I somehow had to haul to the other side of the airport to catch my bus. I’d have to navigate through customs, long hallways, shuttle rides, and an intricate maze of parking garages, all in Spanish. But first things first. After several minutes I finally managed to heave my bike bag onto my suitcase. With one hand balancing the load, I shimmied my backpack over my shoulders and began my trek…”
It was the fall of 2015, I was a senior in high school, and I was about to compete in Andorra for the Mountain Bike World Championships. I had written those lines in my journal that night, my first night in Europe, and returned to them again a few months later in my college application. But the story begins much earlier than that.
My first ever bike race was a NICA race at Sherwood Hills in 9th grade. I’d only mountain biked a handful of times before then and didn’t even particularly want to go, but my dad was too excited for me to let him down. I was on an enduro bike with a downhill fork, hadn’t had any breakfast, and bonked so hard halfway through the race that I had to walk my bike to the finish. Still, I was hooked.
In 10th grade, I joined Summit Bike Club and fell in love with the sport as I made new friends. I was a swimmer and a runner before I became a biker, so I found my niche in XTERRA off-road triathlon. That year, I got my first real taste of international competition in Maui at XTERRA Worlds, where I took 2nd for my age group. XTERRA had such a wonderful vibe and was a great introduction for me and off-road sports; however, training for three separate sports was becoming harder and harder. So in 2015, I shifted my focus solely to mountain biking.
I began riding almost every day, learning as much as I could from my coaches and friends. Most of all, I was enjoying the process and enjoying the races. By the end of the season, I was lucky enough to be in that Barcelona airport (albeit lost and confused), on my way to race the World Championships in Andorra. I placed 23rd in that race, finished my last NICA season back in Utah, applied to several colleges, and carried all that momentum into the next year. Then again in 2016 I attended Worlds in Nové Město na Moravě of the Czech Republic. My dad’s entire family lives in Czech, so it was particularly special to meet family members for the first time and have so many people there to cheer me on. Finally, if the year couldn’t get any more eventful, I returned home to perhaps the biggest change yet: moving away to start college.
Today, I am a sophomore at Stanford University studying Human Biology. I love college life – I talk with professors, I watch movies with friends, I (attempt to) surf at the beach. I also get stressed out, I get sick of the dining hall food, and I miss home ‒ my mountains, my family, my friends ‒ more than I’d like to admit. But through all this change, mountain biking has stayed with me. My story doesn’t start or end with biking, but it’s a passion I’m inexplicably tied to, one without the frills and drama and stress of the real world. It’s a little piece of home that I’ve brought here to California, something to pour my energy into, something I began a few short years ago but can see myself doing for the rest of my life.