A GIRL’S INSPIRATIONAL JOURNEY TO BECOMING A RACER AND ROLE MODEL
What It’s Like To Join A NICA Team
By Genesis Munoz
Genesis is a member of the Park City High School Mountain Bike Team in Park City, Utah.
At the beginning of summer 2021, my life changed for the better. Going to my first practice was scary, yet the team made me feel welcomed and like I belonged. Over the course of the past few months, I have become closer to the team, and they are people I can rely on. The team has become like family to me.
Being the only Hispanic girl on the team was intimidating. I felt like an outsider and like I was doing something that wasn’t meant for me. Even when I went to my first race it was still scary, because there were still not as many Hispanics as I expected. Yet, the team was still there to support me no matter who I was. I started off this season with a team loaner bike, which was a big challenge for me. I had never ridden a mountain bike before and the bike was a loaner—it didn’t fit me. Later, I had the good fortune to receive a Trek Pathfinder Scholarship that provided me with a 2022 Marlin 7 bike and all the gear I would need to ride. When my mom found out we had won a Trek scholarship, she was speechless because she never thought something like this would ever be given to me. When I got the new bike and gear, it just encouraged me more to continue pushing myself beyond my comfort zone.
Being a girl in such a male-dominated sport can be a challenge. Girls live up to a standard of where we have to be “pretty in pink,” we have to stay safe, we can’t do little things that will get dirt on our face. Yet I love going to those practices where I can get a little dirty and messy. It is stereotyped for boys being stronger and faster than girls, but I love proving those people wrong. When I am able to ride just a little faster than them or work a little harder than them, it has a great feeling. In this sport, there are not as many women role models compared to men, so I hope that I can show girls that it’s okay to get dirty and to try something that is challenging. I hope I can be a role model for any girl hoping to join the team. I want to show them a girl can do it just as well.
I began the season as the slowest rider in the lowest high school group, but this was my first year and my first real time on a bike. I was always the last rider behind the group, but I soon gained the strength to move to the front of the group. I stayed at the front of my group for about a month or so until I was placed in a faster group, where I began the entire process again. I hope, as I continue riding, I get better and get in higher groups. I have seen so much improvement in myself with riding, it doesn’t matter if I’m in the back of the group. I still try my hardest and have worked so hard to get where I am now. When I look back at my first ride and the climbs I thought were impossible, it makes me laugh. Now I do them all the time as if they are flat.
Racing is my favorite part about mountain biking with the team, because it allows me to see how much I’ve improved, and not only that, races also encourage me to continue with my mountain biking journey. To me, racing is not always about winning or getting on the podium, but finishing and crossing the finish line with a positive attitude. When it comes to racing, I don’t just push myself to finish for others but for myself to show I can do it and I will do it on my own. Getting dirty and hurt during races is what makes the race fun and worth doing and finishing. When I’m racing, I always tell myself that I’m racing in finishing the race, not for others but for myself. I love the atmosphere of the team—when we are not racing, we play foosball, stick tattoos on and cheer on our teammates. I love it.
I have had such a great season, starting with no riding, to now being part of the Park City High School Mountain Bike Team, and riding to places l never thought I would ever get to or see. I’ve been on the podium twice and crashed a few times, but I just keep getting up and doing it again.
The Trek NICA Scholarship Program
Here’s what Trek says about their program that awarded one of its Trek Marlin bikes to Genesis Munoz:
“In February 2021, Trek introduced the Pathfinders Scholarship to bring greater diversity, equity, and inclusion to youth mountain biking by providing people of color with the bikes, gear, and resources they need to overcome historical barriers to the sport.
“During our first round of scholarships, we received over 350 individual applications from student athletes, representing 70 teams from over 18 states, and after an intense review process, we awarded 150 of those applicants with Pathfinder Scholarships.
“The Pathfinders Scholarship provides recipients with a Trek Marlin mountain bike, helmet, shoes, accessories and a kit. Additionally, recipients receive a stipend to cover NICA league membership fees and entry fees for a full season of racing.
“The application window for the scholarship is now closed. Check back in February 2022 for information on fall league scholarships.”