After a wreck last year, Teter couldn’t do much to recover. The runner-up from 2014 fell into an 11th place finish in 2015. Senior Julia Thomas had to take some time off to re-evaluate if the result was worth the training.
Stepping back to look at the bigger picture, Thomas realized she would miss it too much if she gave up on the sport and the team.
“It came down to the fact that I knew I had one more shot,” Thomas said. “I had one more year to do the things to make it right.”
Thomas, a three-year rider, called 2015 a rebuilding year. At the beginning of this season, Teter was ready to make changes to put it back at the top, where Thomas knows it belongs.
One of those changes started with a new coach. Since 2005, Teter has operated under the same coach. But he lived in Chicago and it became harder and harder for the team to communicate with him and get instruction. The team felt disadvantaged because he wasn’t able to be in Bloomington.
“It just got to a point where it ran its course,” Thomas said. “An alumni put us in touch with John Becker, who used to ride for Theta Chi. He races around the country but lives in Bloomington. It’s been great because he can be here every day we need him. Having someone who can work with us hands-on has been great.”
Changing coaches allowed Teter to get immediate feedback from someone who really knows the sport. Having Becker at practice to point out strengths and weaknesses has changed the way the team prepares, this time training according to personal abilities.
“This year, a big focus for us has been having everyone training how they can train so that each individual person is as good as they can be,” Thomas said. “From there, we can see what we have and we make it work.”
Adapting its training program has been a huge way for Teter to improve this year, Thomas and senior teammate Eliza Heath said.
“In the past, it was kind of the program where everyone followed one training plan and you just better be good at it,” Thomas said. “Now it’s kind of more personalized, we do the best we can do, but when we put it all together, our improvements really show.”
As the only women’s residence hall team in the field, Teter functions the same as a normal independent team with a sponsor. It usually has one rider on the team who lives in Teter, to give it its connection to the dorm.
Kinsey Allen is the link this year, as the only freshman rider for the team. In addition, sophomore Chase Wischmeier and senior Kelsey Kluesner round out the rest of the Teter squad. With a small group, the riders have come to depend on each other, creating a family dynamic that Thomas, Allen and Heath agree is one of the best parts.
When Allen started her freshman year at IU, she had no idea what to expect. But right off the bat, Allen met Thomas and the two clicked. Allen doesn’t know what a college experience would be like without biking for Teter.
“I met Julia at Welcome Week, so that’s where it all started,” Allen said. “Right away I knew everything was going to change when I joined. Now, when I’m struggling or want to give up, I just think of Eliza and Julia and how proud of me they will be if I keep going. I don’t ever want to let them down.”
Similarly, three years ago Thomas knew she was signing up for a competitive team, but it has been a lifestyle change more than anything, she said. In the end, if she could do it all over again, she would.
As the rider with the most race experience, Thomas compares this year’s team to those from the past. In 2016, this team easily stacks up against some of the best she’s been a part of, she said.
Teter is hoping for its endurance to carry it toward the top of the pack, where it is ready to prove again it’s where it belongs.
In terms of race strategy for Friday, Teter has a pretty good idea. The main focus is to be prepared for anything. It’s impossible to have a set plan and stick to it, especially after what happened last year, Thomas said, and her team agrees.
“Last year, we didn’t feel as though we were an 11th place team by any means,” Thomas said. “This is a new era for us. We really want to put Teter at the top and stay at the top because we feel like we are one of the teams that deserves it.”
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