The 2023 Little 500 women’s race was a spectacle, with unbelievable twists and turns from the first lap to the final stretch, as Teter looked like the runaway champion until a late Melanzana push sealed them as repeat champions. As the only returning member from last year’s team, senior Abby Green joins a very select list of two-time champions in Little 500 history.
A key factor from the waving of the green flag was the slick track, with rainy conditions all afternoon leading up to the race causing some difficulties with exchanges and leading to collisions.
Kappa Alpha Theta, with prominent historical success in the Little 500, had an unforeseen wipeout halfway through the race that dropped them from a potential top-three placement to finishing eighth.
Another factor that ended up being the decisive blow was fatigue, as the tides completely turned in the second half. Teter opted for a sprint strategy, with its riders opting for shorter sets and frequent exchanges to gain the lead. This worked at first, with Teter gaining a 13-second lead by lap 60, looking like it was Teter’s race to lose.
However, this strategy backfired quickly as riders began to lose their speed in the last 25 laps of the race, opening the door for Delta Gamma and eventual champion Melanzana to close the gap through less exchanges and stronger endurance.
By lap 80, Delta Gamma and Melanzana passed Teter for the top spots. Teter was unable to return to its commanding lead for the final 20 laps, and eventually placed second by a margin of 10.5 seconds. Despite the finish, Teter will return all of its racers for next year’s race.
Delta Gamma lost its footing due to some poor exchanges in the final stretch. A critical point was a competitive exchange with CSF, where CSF cut off Delta Gamma from sprinting out of the exchange, costing the team multiple seconds that ended up being a key difference. Delta Gamma eventually placed fourth behind Alpha Chi Omega.
The name of the game for this race was the strength of a team’s top three riders, as three was enough riders for exchanges, and the depth of those three was the key for Melanzana to have a competitive edge, no matter who was riding. Melanzana had three riders in the top 20 and two in the top 10 in individual time trials, falling behind only Teter for most riders in the top 20.
After back to back first place finishes, Melanzana will lose three of its four riders. Washburn, Green and Lauren Etnyre are all seniors. Nora Abdelkader is the lone freshman for the team.