Lindsey Wilson College

Lindsey Wilson College Hoping For A Repeat Performance At Collegiate BMX National Championships

By: Jim Rusnak  March 07, 2023

How the Lindsey Wilson College BMX team became the best on their campus and in competition.

Everything came together at the right time for Lindsey Wilson College at last year’s USA Cycling Collegiate BMX National Championships. After trailing by a few points heading into the final day of competition, the Blue Raiders pulled off the team omnium win by four points over powerhouse Marian, 296-292.

It was the fourth national title for Lindsey Wilson in cycling and its second in BMX. The school, located in Columbia, Ky., also won national championships in cyclocross in 2000 and 2001 and BMX in 2012.

It was the first national title for head coach Johnny Mitchell, who was also in his first season with the Blue Raiders.

“It was especially gratifying for us because of the size of our team,” Mitchell said. “Compared to a Marian or Colorado Mesa University, we are by far the smallest of the teams. We had a group pep talk to start the second day. I just told them, ‘Every minute we’ve spent together, every pedal stroke you guys have taken – every single bit of that matters, and it all comes down to today.’ And they all rose to the occasion.”

Mitchell said the team didn’t race perfectly at last year’s nationals by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, on the first day of competition, one of their riders crashed into another one of their riders. But they persevered.

“It basically came down to the very last race of the day, and it was so close that we weren’t even sure we had won until the podium ceremony, which was especially exciting for all of us,” Mitchell said.

Lindsey Wilson will be looking to capture a bit of that excitement again at this year’s Collegiate BMX National Championships, March 10-11 in Bakersfield, Calif. The event will run in conjunction with the USA BMX Golden State Nationals.

The Blue Raiders will bring 10 riders to the event to defend their national title.

“Everyone will have to race pretty much perfectly for us to win it this year,” Mitchell said. “I think we do have a shot. We have had some very unfortunate injuries that will make us pretty short-handed for this race. It’s going to be tough. Marian always has a presence. CMU always has a presence. Lindenwood -- all tremendously talented teams with huge rosters. We have some talent, but like I said, we are going to be a little short-handed from some injuries.”

Lindsey Wilson will look for leadership on the men’s side from senior Mateo Marasass, who was third in omnium last year, and sophomore Jaime Quintanilla, who also made last year’s main after his teammate crashed him out on the first day.

“Mateo’s work ethic is off the charts,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell also expects key contributions from several riders who did not compete last year due to injuries.

“They’re a huge addition,” Mitchell said. “We needed them last year.”

On the women’s side, senior Korie Gilbert finished fourth in the omnium last year. Mitchell says she has the potential to be national champ.

“She is extremely talented,” Mitchell said. “I’ve told her a bunch of times, ‘If you believe in yourself the way I believe in you, you would be unbeatable.’ If she believes in herself and is not timid, we’re going to be in good shape.”

Three Keys to Success

Mitchell said his BMX squad is the best team on campus – not just the best cycling team, but the best athletic team at Lindsey Wilson. Period. Here are the keys to their success:

  1. Cohesiveness. “The main thing for us is that we’re such a tight-knit group,” Mitchell said. “We’re not a huge team, but they do everything together. They train together. They travel together. They eat together. They hang out together. The more time they spend together, the better they will be. You can always spot the teams that don’t train together. When they show up on race day, they’re easy to spot. That’s not us. Our team gets along. We train together and race well together.”
  2. Dedication. “Their dedication to themselves, their teammates and the sport is tremendous,” Mitchell said. “I’ve got guys who drive themselves two hours down to Nashville once or twice a week [to race and train]. They make sure they get their homework done so they can go down there and train.”
  3. Resilience. “They are remarkably resilient,” Mitchell said. “The people who have gotten injured have dealt with it with a pretty level head. The people who are not injured are some of the hardest workers I have ever seen. Weightlifting, sprints, working on gates … They are insane, in my opinion.”

Two Big Challenges This Season

Despite their success and cohesiveness as a team, this season hasn’t been without challenges. Here are the two biggest:

  1. Injuries. “It’s not like they have been inconsequential injuries,” Mitchell said. “They have been season-long injuries that will take a year of recovery. And these athletes made the main last year, so it will hurt us in the points.”
  2. Getting Athletes to Races within the Constraints of a Collegiate Cycling Budget. “We are fortunate in that we have two BMX tracks within two hours of us in Nashville and Louisville,” Mitchell said. “My athletes go there and train all the time, which is great. We do have our own BMX gate and track right next to campus that belongs to us that we can use exclusively.”

After writing this article, Lindsey Wilson College had their trailer stolen in Bakersfield, Calif. If you or someone you know can help this team get the bikes and equipment to race this weekend, reach out to @lwccycling on instagram.