For the first time in Alpha Kappa Lambda history, its bike team has qualified for Little 500.
While AKL is only in its second year on campus at IU, it has made great strides as a fraternity this season. It chartered from a colony to a chapter in September and qualified for Little 500 this past weekend.
The squad qualified with a time of 2:48.935, good enough for 23rd place and a chance at Little 500 glory.
To the surprise of most, the fraternity actually had a bike team last year, but they failed to qualify, as they faulted three times. The experience did not sit well with sophomore Jason Mark. He wanted more.
“Last year we put in quite a bit of work, studying the team and riding overall,” Mark said. “To see that payoff for AKL is rewarding for the frat as a whole.”
One of the biggest positive changes for the team has been the addition of two new riders, sophomores Collin Hoskins and Matt Redmond.
Hoskins and Redmond recently joined the fraternity and expressed interest in riding for the Little 500 team, a huge aid in qualifying this year. Sophomore Lennie Antonelli rode with AKL last season and understands the importance of athleticism in biking.
“Getting two more athletic guys is one of the main reasons for our success, to be honest,” Antonelli said. “Collin and Matt are athletes that played sports their whole life, so they have that competitive edge.”
Last year, Redmond played on the club baseball team and has taken some of that collegiate sports experience onto the track.
Not only was Redmond a part of the IU club baseball team, he signed a national letter of intent to play baseball at Franklin College before making his way to Bloomington.
Hoskins was also an athlete before IU. He ran track and played basketball during his high school career at Brown County. In his track days, Hoskins set a new school record in hurdles and led Brown County to a conference title.
His athletic background has prepared this team for the rowdy environment they saw at quals and the enhanced scene they will experience at Little 500.
For a team to be on the cusp of qualifying, nerves can play a factor down the finish line, but all of that went away for Redmond.
His nerves faded away when he was on the track because he was so locked in. All of his brothers cheering on the team throughout the race was another reminder of all the support the team had and helped him to relax.
“The best part of all the guys being there and cheering us on down the stretch was the celebration afterwards,” Antonelli said. “We put our name up on the leaderboard and all the brothers just got rowdy and started screaming back at us.”
The support for the team at quals was far greater than last year. As the fraternity has grown, the brothers have put emphasis on qualifying for Little 500, and the team knew this was their year.
The riders said they were aware of all the pressure on them this season to qualify after their struggles last season, but they knew they prepared tirelessly and the talent was there.
Making a concentrated effort to follow a more structured workout plan has been a point of emphasis to the team, something they didn’t necessarily focus on last year, said Mark.
Mark hopes this success on the track can bring recognition to the fraternity off the track, something that is crucial for recruitment. For Mark, the fraternity has grown so much in the past few years, but he always sees room for more improvement.
The 33-team Little 500 field is a tough qualification, especially for the men, as many teams were bounced out in the final minutes of qualifications. With all the starting positions set, teams are beginning to set goals for the race.
“Our goal is to just place higher than what we qualified at,” Hoskins said. “We’re trying to go better than 23rd, and I think we definitely have the potential to do so.”
This team is used to being on the big stage with all eyes on them from their previous athletic experiences. While that stage has not been as big as Little 500, they will know what to expect come April 21.
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