Thirty-three women’s teams will take the track at Bill Armstrong Stadium tonight for the 25th running of the Little 500.
Tonight’s race will be the culmination of a long journey that riders have endured throughout the school year, and in some cases since last summer, to be fully prepared to take home the checkered flag in the 100-lap event.
“It feels pretty unreal and a little nerve racking,” Kappa Alpha Theta rider Rachel Metherd said. “It seems like this year has flown by and that we were literally just on our winter break training trip complaining that our legs might actually fall off.”
On race day, two-time defending champion Teter will aim for its third straight Little 500 title and will be wearing the coveted yellow jersey on the track. In addition, the team possesses the green jersey, after finishing last month’s Qualifications in first place with a time of 2:42.95 and the white jersey after winning the 2012
They are the first team since Kappa Kappa Gamma in 2005 to possess all three jerseys.
“We’ve had a really successful spring so far,” Teter rider Emma Caughlin said. “It gives us a lot of confidence going into the race with all three jerseys, but we’re still going to have to work really hard for the race. We are going to play to our strengths based on the dynamics of the race.”
Though Teter was the Spring Series overall champion, Kappa Alpha Theta came in second despite winning the majority of the events. Second-year rider Kathleen Chelminiak finished first in Individual Time Trials and was the champion of Miss-N-Out, as the team also finished second in Team Pursuit.
With Chelminiak and Metherd, another top-10 rider, leading the way for Theta, the riders will try to end Teter’s streak and win their fifth overall Little 500 title.
“Training for Theta Cycling is pretty much a lifestyle, where every Sunday night we get together and plan the whole next week around riding,” Metherd said. “Knowing it’s all coming down to Friday makes you just reflect on the whole year and put all of your faith and trust into the training.”
Another team that could contend for the Little 500 title is Wing It Cycling, a practice race winner and third-place finisher in the Spring Series. Despite finishing 11th in Qualifications, the team had four top-20 finishers in ITTs and will have the deepest core of riders on race day.
“The Spring Series was fun and a great measuring tool, but we kept training right through the events with our eyes on the prize of the actual race,” Wing It rider Abigail Legg said. “All of our focus has been on Friday night, and more than anything, we are just really looking forward to it and to having some fun.”
However, this race day will be extra special for Alpha Chi Omega, which fell out of the lead pack during last year’s Little 500 when an Army Women rider crashed into Alpha Chi rider Kelsey Tharnstrom, causing her to slide across the track and be taken off on a stretcher.
“Last year after the crash, I hardly remembered anything,” Tharnstrom said. “My mind was in a complete state of oblivion. I remember getting out of the medic tent, getting back on my trainers and then getting out on the track doing everything my coach told me I needed to do. I’m pretty sure I was crying the whole 40 laps I rode after the crash and not because I was in pain but because there was so much shock, adrenaline and disbelief running through my body.”
This year, Tharnstrom and Alpha Chi are back. The team will try to move from starting in the fifth row to contending for a Little 500 crown after last year’s disappointment.
“It’s hard to pinpoint your emotions knowing that something you have worked so hard and so long for will be over in less than 24 hours,” Tharnstrom said. “I’m nervous, excited but most of all ready. Ready to leave everything out on the track.”
It will be the 32 other teams on the track at Bill Armstrong Stadium trying to knock Teter off of the pedestal, trying to be the first team other than Teter to raise the Borg-Warner Trophy since 2010.
“It would be incredible to win for a third consecutive time,” Caughlin said. “But having the target on our backs has just given us extra motivation to do well in all things leading up to and including the race.”
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