2021 Collegiate Varsity Club of the Year

Meet 2021 Collegiate Varsity Club of the Year: Marian University

By: Guillermo Rojas  March 22, 2022

Marian University wins their 11th Club of the Year recognition.

USA Cycling awarded Marian University the 2021 Collegiate Varsity Club of the Year. Established in 1992 as a track cycling team, Marian University has become the benchmark for collegiate cycling programs. Fielding teams in all five collegiate cycling disciplines: track, road, mountain bike, cyclocross and BMX, Marian has produced World Champions, Olympians and many off-the-bike leaders.

Marian focuses on creating life-long leaders and all riders are student-athletes with academics being the primary focus. Led by Head Coach Dean Peterson (since 2006), Director of Performance John Hoopingarner (class of 2015) and Director of Operations Michael Kubancsek (class of 2013), the coaching staff focuses on developing the whole person.

“You come to Marian for an education, that’s ultimately what you are coming to Marian for. Being a bike racer during that experience is something that’s incredibly unique, incredibly special and very cool. The ultimate end goal for us is for these individuals to come through the program to get a degree and to develop as human beings,” said Hoopingarner. 

Riders are asked to make a year-long commitment to the program by competing in at least two disciplines. The program supports riders with year-round coaching and training, which allows them to choose between cyclocross, mountain bike or track in the fall and BMX or road in the spring. “We have a huge amount of diversity within the team - men and women, equal spots for scoring, all the different disciplines,” said Kubancsek. “We do all five, but we treat them equally.”

With a team roster of 75 riders, ranging from Cat 5 new riders to professional level cyclists, they compete in the Midwest Collegiate Cycling Conference alongside Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin. 2021 was another great year for Marian, highlighted by capturing the team championship at USA Cycling’s Collegiate Track Nationals. This was the first Collegiate National Championship to commence since 2019. It was a team effort with the riders winning four events; Michael Hemmerlin (Mesa, Ariz.) took the men’s points race, Elizabeth Stevenson (Rochester Hills, Mich.) captured the individual pursuit, and the team won the co-ed team sprint, plus the women’s team pursuit. The four victories brought the program’s individual national title total to 47 at Collegiate National Championships. On the dirt, Olivia Armstrong (Bend, Ore.) took home the Dual Slalom national title and the team finished sixth in the Team Omnium rankings at the Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championships. At the Collegiate Cyclocross National Championship races, Marian finished fourth in the Team Relay and fifth in the Team Omnium.

Showcasing the legacy of the Marian University program, the school’s alumni also had a successful 2021. Two former Cycling Knights, Felica Stancil (class of 2018) and Coryn Labecki, née Rivera (Class of 2015), represented Team USA at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Both captured top ten results against the world’s best; Felica finished fourth in BMX and Coryn finished seventh in the Road Race.

At the 2021 UCI BMX World Championships, freshman Drew Polk (Avon, Ind.) took home bronze in the Junior category. Fellow first year student, Lizzy Gunsalus (Dudley, Mass.) was named to Team USA and competed in the 2022 UCI Cyclocross World Championships.

The results are impressive, Marian University has won 11 USA Cycling Collegiate Varsity Club of the Year awards in the past thirteen years (2009, 2011, 2013-2021), winning the category for nine straight years. They have also won Conference Championships on the Road 16 times, Track three times, Cyclocross four times and Mountain Bike eight times, plus the Overall Team Omnium Championship seven times.

Since 1992, the Marian University Cycling team has been growing. With a current team roster of 75 riders, including students from ten different countries and 23 different states, and 35 different academic areas represented, their goal of a diverse team has once again been achieved. With a team GPA of 3.22 in 2021 and 20 riders having a GPA of 3.50 or above, the Cycling Knights continue to showcase themselves off the bike, as well.

With a first place at Track Nationals, sixth at Mountain Bike Nationals, fifth at Cyclocross Nationals and second at BMX Nationals, the Knights are currently ranked second in the Overall Team Omnium. The title will be decided at the USA Cycling Collegiate Road Nationals in May in Augusta, Georgia.