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Hopeful Huskies pedaling toward championship

Alec Walecki

Ken­neth McNeill, E’17, and Alec Walecki, SSH’16, had dif­ferent rea­sons for joining the Northeastern’s moun­tain biking team, part of the NU Cycling team.

McNeill wanted to con­tinue his love of bike racing that began during child­hood, while Walecki sought a group of fellow riders to join in riding on trails out­side of the city.

Now, both stu­dents will find them­selves on an exciting path this weekend, rep­re­senting North­eastern at the USA Cycling Col­le­giate Moun­tain Bike National Cham­pi­onships in North Carolina.

I did not come to North­eastern expecting to be a bike racer,” Walecki said. “When I was a freshman without a car, joining the team was a way to get out into the woods and ride bikes. But I really enjoy it. It gives me some­thing to ded­i­cate myself to.”

Both will be com­pete on Friday and Sat­urday in cross country events, which include an endurance race that can take up to two hours and a short-​​track race that tests riders’ speed.

McNeill is a vet­eran of the col­le­giate cycling scene, having com­peted in the moun­tain bike national cham­pi­onships in the past, as well as road cycling cham­pi­onships. He said that expe­ri­ence will def­i­nitely help him this weekend, and he is looking for­ward to seeing how he does against riders from across the country.

The whole expe­ri­ence is pretty amazing,” McNeill said. “We’ll be going against the top var­sity pro­grams in the country so I’m excited to see where I stack up again against those riders.”

How­ever, McNeill will have an extra obstacle to over­come that none of his com­peti­tors will face. Ear­lier this season while com­peting in a gravity race, where riders speed down a moun­tain as quick as they can, McNeill took a nasty spill and broke his foot. He opted to con­tinue racing and was still able to qualify for nationals.

I’m very com­pet­i­tive and am willing to do what­ever it takes to ride,” McNeill said. “It would have taken a lot more than a broken foot to stop me.”

This will be Walecki’s first trip to nationals, and he said he’s curious to see how the races will go with larger com­petitor fields. North­eastern com­petes in the Eastern Col­le­giate Cycling Con­fer­ence, and those races usu­ally have about 25 com­peti­tors. There could be 80 to 150 riders in one race at nationals.

It will be a little more chaotic, but being out­doors and in the wilder­ness is a big love of mine,” Walecki said. “Moun­tain biking is an extreme sport that allows you to push your­self and go really fast.”

In addi­tion to get­ting that high-​​level com­pe­ti­tion expe­ri­ence, Walecki said he’s excited to rep­re­sent his home­town of Durango, Col­orado, where he bought his custom-​​made moun­tain bike.

Visit the national cham­pi­onship web­site this week to track how McNeill and Walecki perform.

– By Joe O’Connell

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