Meet Jay From Colorado Springs!

The Mountain Biking season is up and rolling for our Colorado Springs athletes!
With practices off to a great start this week, we reached out to Jay Hakala, our Colorado chapter lead, to get to know him and the Colorado Springs program a little better, and to help tell the story of how the chapter got started.

Some say there is no such thing as coincidence.

Call it what you will, but sometimes an unexpected string of events leads you to exactly where you need to be.  The right place at the right time.  In such moments, extraordinary things happen.  This is Jay’s story.  And ultimately, it is the story that brought Summit to Colorado Springs.

Jay, whose relationship with bikes began at a young age, rode freestyle BMX as  a kid in the 80’s, dabbling in competitions and riding for pleasure.  So he was thrilled when his youngest son took to bikes right away.  Jay recognized a budding young talent, and decided to foster and support his son’s cycling career in any way he could.

His son–who is now 17 and a junior in High School–began racing at the age of 10.  But he quickly began to outgrow the programs in their hometown of San Antonio, TX–a place not known for prolific mountain biking culture.  Jay realized that, in order to further his cycling career, his son needed a more competitive environment.

“We were good friends with all the Summit folk down in Texas,” Jay told me, “but they were just so far away since they were only in Austin and Waco.  I mean, we would get together with them at races, but my son couldn’t go to practices . . . . I didn’t feel like he was getting the support he needed.”

With the older children moving out of the house, the Hakalas decided to sell and look for a new place.  Through a rapidly unfolding series of retail confusions and rental mishaps, the stars aligned and they found themselves with the unexpected opportunity to move to Colorado.

“There were many reasons for the move,” Jay said, But a major one was so that my son could race bikes at a higher level . . . .We had always loved Colorado.  We had been riding there before and loved the area . . . and we said–‘heck, why not?’ and went ahead and did it!”

It has been less than a year now since the family moved to Colorado Springs–a decision which has been instrumental in shaping the cycling careers of both father and son.

Upon arriving, however, Jay saw an immediate need he felt needed to be filled.

“There were already all these great programs with the goal to get kids on bikes at a young age . . . . but once they got to the elite–or even pre-elite levels–they were having to leave and go to new teams in order to get to the big races.  There was nothing in place where the kids could have practices and support at the local level, and still have that national recognition.”

From his interactions with the Summit chapters in Texas, Jay knew the support the team offered was exactly what they needed in Colorado Springs.

“We don’t want to compete with the local organizations . . . . I think what they are doing is great!  But I wanted to offer something more for those who are looking to compete at a higher level. . . I mean, these kids are really fast!”

So he reached out to his old friends.

“I was amazed at how quickly everything came together!  I reached out to Paul Sacket and within a couple of days MJ had contacted me to set things up.”

Just as everything had fallen into place to bring Jay and his family to Colorado, things once again lined up perfectly and a local Summit chapter was born.

“I still can’t believe this is all happening!  We are so lucky to have such an amazing group of people.  We have some of the best riders in the country coaching these kids . . . . Russell Finsterwarld and Daniel Matheny are amazing!  We have been exceeding expectations from the very start.”  Jay told me excitedly.  “We had six kids who we hoped would sign up, and instead we had nine!  And three out of the nine are girls . . . . When I told them we were going to have a female assistant coach, Hayley Bates, their eyes got all wide, they were so excited!”

For Jay, mountain biking is all about community and support.  It is through his work with Summit that he hopes to give back to that community.  “At first, I was doing it to help my son,” he admitted “it was mostly selfish.  But it has become so much more than that . . . creating a space for these kids with so much potential, and watching them progress while also having a great time on the bike is so rewarding.  Even after my son graduates and leaves, I think I will keep on doing this!  I don’t think I can go back to–well… doing nothing.  The way things were before.  I’m hooked!”

When I asked Jay what qualities he felt made a great young athlete, he responded:

“I think the most important thing is just a love for being on the bike.  I mean, some kids have a knack for riding, and that talent is important, but talent will only get you so far . . . . you have to have all three: skill, inner drive and determination, and a passion and a love for the sport.  That’s what keeps you from quitting when it gets hard.”

It is this passion and drive that Jay so admires in his son, and what he hopes to foster for the juniors in Colorado Springs.  He says that his favorite thing is “seeing these kids progress … the ones who work hard.  Watching them gain confidence and skill on the bike and get faster and faster.  Just one season of hard work, they can go from a total beginner to–well, not professional–but let’s just say they are way faster than me!”

With the team in Colorado off to such a promising start, we are just as excited as Jay to see where the future takes us!  “I can’t say for sure, since practices just barely started . . . . but if you asked me where I see this going in three to five years, I would say–I hope there will be more teams all around Colorado.  One in Denver, one down south . . . so more kids can get involved and have the same opportunity.”

We are inspired by Jay’s dedication to mountain biking and helping these young athletes achieve their dreams and reach new heights.  Each of us has our own journey, both on and off the bike, and together our stories combine to #growMTB all over the world.

What is your story?  Feel free to share in the comments below!

Stay tuned for more updates on Jay and the Colorado Springs team as the season progresses!

Learn a little bit more about our Colorado coaches here.

Want to get involved?  Head over to this page to find more details on our U19 Colorado program.