Four laps was all it took for each cycling team to attempt at qualifying for Indiana University’s Little 500.
Saturday, March 28, 33 women’s teams and 41 men’s teams participated in Quals, the qualifying event for contending Little 500 cyclers. Only 33 spots are available for each respective race. The race is held annually at the Bill Armstrong Stadium in Bloomington, Ind. and is know as “The World’s Greatest College Weekend.”
Founded in 1951 by Howdy Wilcox, Jr., the Little 500 was meant to be modeled on the Indianapolis 500.
Kappa Alpha Theta, a women’s sorority at IU, had a major part in the beginning of the women’s race. After participating in Quals in 1987, the Theta bike team proved to the Indiana University Student Foundation that women were interested in, and had the ability to race, too.
In 1988, a women’s race started, and Theta has been involved every year since. Traditionally, Theta’s team has been a top contender for approximately the last 20 years, winning four races thus far, and being one of four sorority teams to win the race ever.
“Kappa Kappa Gamma and Theta used to go back and forth with wins,” Theta team captain Kristen Metherd said. “Currently, Kappa has five and we have four. Theta is considered the perennial favorite. However, in the past two years, Delta Gamma and Kappa Delta has entered the sorority winning circle.”
In 2007, Theta placed third; in 2008, Theta placed fourth. This year, between the eight training members, four of them will compete for a possible fifth title at the 2009 Little 500 women’s race on April 24.
Metherd, a junior at IU, will compete in her second Little 500 race.
“As a rookie (last year), my main objective was how to obtain a spot on the final four race day team,” Metherd said. “Now, as a veteran, my thought process is very different. Instead of concentrating on getting a race day spot, I am asking myself how we are going to win the race. I know my riding style way better, along with the style of my toughest competitors. I am going to be a lot smarter, which will hopefully put us in first place at the end of the day.”
The team’s training has a major impact on their success on race day. Their coaches, Nicole Vincent and David Jordan, direct their workout via e-mail and phone, as well as visiting for one week in the spring and for race weekend, as well. Despite their long distance coaching, Vincent and Jordan have had major impact on the teams successes the last couple years.
Vincent and Jordan host a training trip where they live in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, over the winter break.
“Training trips are crucial to being a successful team come April,” Metherd said. “Trips are a great way to get all of the girls out of Bloomington and away from all of the distractions of everyday student life. We are able to focus on our workouts and our strengths and weaknesses. This allows us to grow stronger as a team.”
After Quals March 28, Theta is ranked fifth behind Teter, Wing It, Army Women and Kappa Delta. However, Metherd is confident in her team’s chances at placing high.
“I am completely confident in Theta's ability to do very well this year,” she said.
Four laps will soon be 100 laps, and Theta, along with 32 other teams, will compete in the 21st annual Little 500 women’s race, hoping that they will walk away with the trophy and the tradition they’ve worked hard to uphold.
“This year, the makeup of the raceday team will be very different,” she said. “We have gotten much smarter and have more experience under our belts. Our work ethic and passion sets us apart from everyone else. Our passion for the race will help us succeed.”
Series Events for the competing teams begin Wednesday, April 1.
(Photo Courtesy of Kristen Metherd)