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King of the Mountain

Mountain Bike Team captures national title led by four individual national champions

Coming out of the National Mountain Bike Championships at Winter Park in July, the Colorado Mesa University Maverick Mountain Bike Team faced stiff odds.

“A surprising amount of the team was injured as we headed into the collegiate season,” said Brian Flaherty, cycling team director. “It was looking like we weren't going to recover.”

Yet recover they did, and in mid-October, the team captured the national title, propelled by the efforts of four individual national champions and a total of fourteen podium finishes in nine events.

Collin Hudson, a senior from Longmont, Colorado, has one of the more dramatic team stories. While competing at Winter Park in July, a crash resulted in Hudson losing his spleen and one-quarter of his pancreas.

Yet, just ten weeks to the day after his injury, Hudson captured his third national title, adding another dual slalom crown to his BMX honors.

“It was pretty special to win the national title,” shares Hudson. “The doctors said I would not be back to normal activity for up to six months, but everything was best case scenario in the recovery process, and the support of the trainers, the team and my friends made the comeback even more special.”

In addition to Hudson’s title, freshman Turner Conway from Redlands, California, won the men’s downhill national championship in a race where CMU riders swept the top four positions.

Gwendalyn Gibson, a junior from Ramona, California, repeated as the women’s national cross-country champion, a rare back-to-back achievement.

Finally, Park City, Utah’s Katie Clouse, another freshman, bested 69 riders to take the women’s short track cross-country title in a race she led from start to finish.

While the challenges these riders faced were not as dramatic as Hudson’s, Flaherty points out that each of them had something to overcome.

Conway and Clouse, both freshmen, triumphed during their first semester at CMU when they were also adjusting to college life and balancing classes, competition and travel.

“It’s really hard as a freshman to make an immediate impact,” said Flaherty. “Freshmen are coming out of the junior ranks and racing up an age group. It can sometimes take one or two semesters to sort everything out.”

As for Gibson, she faced pressure as the reigning national champion. While this isn't a bad problem to have, wearing the stars and stripes championship jersey put her squarely in the spotlight and made her a target.

Despite the pressure Gibson “rose to the occasion and turned in another standout ride for the team,” said Flaherty, along with the rest of the team. •

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Written by Kristen Lummis