Junior Essay Contest – Winning Entries

In case you missed it, we held an essay contest for junior cyclists earlier this month.  We got some great entries from all over the country and it really got me stoked about the future of cycling to read them all.  Without further ado, here are the winning entries:

Female Winner – Shae Dempsey, Age 14 – Arlington, VA

Shae hanging tough in a local race. Photo courtesy of Dominion Cycling Photography.

Shae hanging tough in a local race. Photo courtesy of Dominion Cycling Photography.

Shae Dempsey races for the National Capital Velo Club on the east coast.  Not only is she fast on a bike, she is already a far better writer than most of us!

My Race – by Shae Dempsey

I wait for my race to start. My legs and toes tingle. I glance around and make out my mom in the crowd of spectators. I catch her eye. She waves. I take a deep breath and let it all out. Why are races always so stressful?  Why are they so exciting? What is taking so long? I am wound like a taut rubber band.  I hear the scream of a whistle and I go.  

Once biking was a scary thought, a daunting challenge left undone. I was afraid to let go of the brakes, relying on wobbly training wheels for support. But I pushed off and started rolling down the street and I’m never going to stop.

Now I crave biking. I crave the hills. I like to suffer a little bit. When my legs really hurt and my breathing is labored I tell myself “one more pedal stroke, one more, one more” and I become lost in the moment and I realize I am at the top. And as I recover for a second, I laugh and look ahead to yet another set of hills, flying downward, wind whipping my hair. The risk and intensity are exhilarating and uplifting; downhill, after uphill, after downhill.

I like the perfect days, when the temperature is great, a wide road stretching out as far as the eye can see and golden sun rays stream down. I like the hard days too; I like the hot days, the cold days, the mud days, the I want to stay in bed days. Those days help me learn and persevere. I just deal with one thing at a time, adjust, and continue on.

Biking has shaped my character and has pushed me to be stronger. Being one of the few junior girls on the National Capital Velo Club I have learned how to keep a “can do” attitude, persevere, and most importantly work together with others. Being fairly new to competitive cycling I have learned that everyone has different skills. Some are good at hills or fast, some know biking terminology or just have years of experience and some just like to have fun. Regardless of your skills and strengths, you can always improve by practicing and learning from others.

I round one more bend. I see the finish line. Heat waves bounce off the asphalt. I glance forward and see a girl only meters away. This is my race. I stand and crank. My head down. We are even. One more pedal stroke and I’m in front. Her breathing fills my ears. My heart is in my throat. Then it is all over, I am spent and in slow motion I climb the podium steps.

-Shae Dempsey

Male Winner – Issac Ross, Age 16 – Colorado Springs, CO

Issac on track at the Olympic Training center in Colorado Springs.

Issac on track at the Olympic Training center in Colorado Springs.

Issac is an up and coming rider out of Colorado Springs.  He has moved up through the ranks of the Front Rangers Cycling Club as a rider, coach, and is now Vice President of their board – at age 16!

I am hard pressed to find an area of my life that Cycling has not touched, since beginning to ride seriously at twelve my self-confidence, my health, my relationships, and my community involvement have all been greatly improved to better than they have ever been. Before I began cycling I hated looking in the mirror, at just twelve years old I had crippling self-confidence issues that prevented me from comfortably making friends, getting involved in my school sports or my community. On top of this, I was not healthy, I could not run down a soccer field without becoming winded, my face flushing, and feeling ugly and pathetic. I hated what I looked like when exercising and thus never partook in it, certainly never around other kids, so I would watch as great communities of student athletes grew together, building lifelong friendships that were tenacious and genuine, I longed to have a community like those but could never find one to fit into.

I started cycling because it was an individual sport, I could go ride alone for a few hours, unimpeded by the worry of my peers seeing and ridiculing me. Gradually I took my beat-up mountain bike out on longer and longer rides, eventually riding upwards of forty miles on occassion, which inspired me to buy my first road bike, a lime green Trek 1200 which I adored. It was loud, it was fast, it was bright and I loved every moment I was on it. I met wonderful adults who would help me along. When I got a flat I went into my local bike shop and met Mindy, the owner who invited me out for rides, and later offered me an internship at the shop, growing my business and workplace confidence immensely and making me comfortable talking to adults as one.

The shop sponsored Colorado Springs’ only youth team, the Front Rangers, and after riding for several months became able to go further than I had ever been before, my face didn’t flush so much when exercising, and I felt ready to join a community and thrive within it. I joined and moved up their ranks, the team pushed me further than I ever thought possible, and eventually I became a veteran of the group. Leadership asked me to lead a skills day, then a group ride, then work on small projects for them. As this progressed I was eventually asked to come to board meetings, and from there I ran for, and was elected Vice President of the Board of Directors for our nonprofit. Cycling transformed me from a self-hating, out of shape kid into a confident, happy young adult with an abundance of peers to share my love of bikes with. Today I have a body that I love, cycling friends that I love even more, and I work within the Front Rangers to expand youth cycling within Colorado Springs for all the juniors whose lives can be transformed by cycling as mine was.

-Issac Ross

Honorable Mention – Avery Cavner, Age 8 – Colorado Springs, CO

Avery after trying out the local velodrome.

Avery, is 8 years old but will be quick to point out her racing age is actually 9!  She has been riding cycle-cross for two season and also happens to be a Type 1 diabetic – although she isn’t letting that slow her down.  Team Novo Nordisk are you paying attention?

Hi, my name is Avery.  Biking has improved my life by a lot of things.  I’ll tell you most of them.

1st, you can bike and have fresh air outside.  2nd you can bike somewhere and if there is no parking you don’t have to drive all over looking for parking.  It has also made me stronger, more athletic, faster and better at gym at school.  I think it would help others by losing weight, becoming stronger, better at being athletic, have bike rides with your family and have fun times.

-Avery Cavner

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