Before the Women's Little 500 began, SKI's members planned to execute a new racing strategy. The plan wasn’t to wait until the final lap to decide the winner in a sprint. They wanted to race until exhaustion.
The team decided that it would ride an aggressive race. One that they would be proud of, regardless of the outcome.
“We wanted to have everyone show up to our race,” SKI senior Emily Carrico said.
The idea stemmed from SKI's eighth place finish in last year’s Little 500. The riders said they didn’t finish the race believing they utilized their full potential.
“They realized shortly after last year’s race that it wasn’t worth it to not go all-out on race day,” SKI coach Jim Kirkham said. “They prepared themselves so much and to not really utilize all that training would be a waste, it would be selling themselves short.”
SKI raced ahead of the pack early in this year’s race. Individual crashes left contending teams such as Teter and Delta Gamma fighting to catch up.
While SKI’s riders circled the track, communication was vital to stay ahead. Carrico said it was no secret when someone was tired. Team members and coaches monitored the riders’ cadence, how they were sitting and how fast they pedaled as a means to gauge their energy level.
“We never really concerned ourselves with where everyone else was,” Kirkham said. “We knew if SKI was getting tired, then everyone else was getting tired.”
Late in the race, SKI's lead dwindled. Riders began catching up to SKI, and the riders said they expected their competition to fight back.
With fewer than 10 laps to go, SKI planned for senior Ivy Moore to push ahead with a straightaway lead for Carrico to finish the race in first. On lap 99, Carrico lost the lead.
Teter’s Lauren Britt and Delta Gamma’s Hanna Coppens raced ahead of Carrico. The team knew it was never going to win a sprint, no matter who was on the bike.
“I am not a sprinter, and that wasn’t where I was supposed to be,” Carrico said. “It was one of my last laps on the track, so I was really just trying to enjoy it. It was an honor to be on the bike for my team because I never would have expected that in a million years.”
SKI realized the outcome of the race would be determined by Teter and Delta Gamma, but when Carrico crossed the line, she had a smile on her face.
“The heart and soul of this year’s team was Emily Carrico,” Kirkham said. “When she comes back to the pit, she’s all smiles. She set the tone – the energy – for accepting the effort and everyone just embraced it.”
The team said it never deviated from its goal and never played it safe. SKI put all its chips on the table with the mindset that it would outlast the rest of the field.
“I think that race will change many future races to come,” Kirkham said. “Certainly, SKI’s calling card going forward is, ‘You better show up ready to race a hundred laps,' because they’re going to from here on out.”
Instead, Britt edged Coppens as Teter won its fourth Little 500. Delta Gamma finished in second place for its second consecutive year, and SKI passed the checkered flag in third.
“This team this year went all in,” Kirkham said. “It’s so rare to ever give everything you got and not hold back anything or play it safe. To go all in and allow yourself to not be held back by fear, it’s a victory. I think the team, if they don’t realize that now, they will at some point in their life.”
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