by Izzy Cohan, staff writer
Asheville has been on the tips of mountain biker’s tongues for years. The trails have been ingrained in these mountains by like-minded souls shredding their knobbies in a way only the true mountain biker can appreciate. Perhaps that’s why mountain biking has been the staple of Wilson athletics since the early 2000s. Since the team’s creation, the Owls have been towards the front of the National Division II ranking.
This year marked the first time in eight years that Warren Wilson fell below 3rd place in the College National Championships. Perhaps this had to do with the location of the event: Angel Fire, New Mexico, which has a base elevation of 8,600 feet and a summit of 10,677 feet.
For Ryan Smith, a senior on the team, it was his first time racing at an elevation about 5,000 feet.
“When I was climbing up the racecourse I was not limited by my sore muscles, but rather the lack of oxygen in my lungs,” Smith said.
The lack of oxygen also took a toll on junior Elias Grant.
“The elevation stripped all the power from my legs,” he said. “Walking up the stairs to the condo I became light headed and winded.”
In years past the team has flown to the events. This year as a way of saving money which allows for more team members to go they drove the 30 hours out to Angel Fire, New Mexico where this year’s event was taking place.
“It was rough, we took turns sleeping on the floor and six of us rotated driving two vehicles throughout the night,” Smith said. “It was the most restless night of sleep I have ever gotten because we stopped every few hours to get gas and use the restroom.”
In a sport that revolves around the recovery and freshness of your muscles paired with aerobic capacity, it seems as though the Owls were left in a less than ideal situation. Grant suggests that he would have performed better if he had trained at a higher elevation.
“My lungs would have been in better shape to brave the harsh conditions of the high country.”
The team members were happy with their performance nonetheless.
“I thought I rode really hard, it was the last race of my collegiate career so I rode hard and didn’t leave anything in the tank,” Smith said.
His thoughts were solidified with a 24th place finish in the first of two endurance races and only slipping one spot back in the second race. Smith was one of the top finishers for the Owls.
The best results of the weekend for Wilson came in the women’s racing with sophomore Allison Jones racing all four events (two gravity races and two endurance races). By racing all events she was eligible to fight for the Women’s DII Omnium title. Through perseverance and strength Jones still had to use her legs after the competition ended—to climb on two podiums. In the last gravity race (Dual Slalom) Jones finished 4th in the Women’s Omnium battle.
As a team the Owls followed the steps of their predecessors and finished 4th in the DII Omnium contest. Though this is the poorest placing in the last eight years, the majority of the team is in their first two years of mountain biking. These young athletes will continue to grow and make up for it in the years to come. Especially if they don’t have to drive thirty hours or race a mile above sea level.
The Owls Nationals Roster:
- Allison Jones
- Alessia Faverio
- Elias Grant
- Izzy Cohan
- Lily Hacker
- Mike Flynn
- Dillon Siff
- Robin Crandell
- Marley Reed
- Robbie Leeson