ST. GEORGE — Dixie High School graduate Gwen Sepp is making a name for herself as a mountain biker at Utah State University.
The former Flyer earned a spot on the USU mountain bike club team as a freshman and she finished fourth in the cross country event at the USA Cycling Collegiate Mountain Biking National Championship.
Sepp was one of a couple of Aggies with strong finishes at the event, held Oct. 13-17 in Durango, Colorado.
“It was crazy conditions, it had snowed over 6 inches on the course before the race,” Sepp told St. George News. “People were out there with shovels trying to clear all the mud and ice and snow off the trail.”
The track is normally 8 miles long, but it had to be shortened because the conditions were just so bad.
Even though it was the first time she had ever competed in such conditions, Sepp said that the adversity actually helped her mentally prepare for the race.
“I slept like a baby the night before, which almost never happens before most races,” she said. “It took the stress away. As soon as I saw the course, I thought I would be super grateful if I could just finish. So I didn’t worry about what place I was in or how I was going to race.”
The race turned out to be a battle against the course, not other bikers. Sepp said the main difficulty in those conditions is that mud sticks to the bike chain and causes it to slip off the sprockets, making pedaling impossible.
“Fortunately I was able to avoid that and finished strong,” she said. Sepp was joined in the top 10 finish by USU senior Bailey Nielsen, who finished seventh.
USU senior Trevor McDonough earned two national titles, coming in first place in both the men’s club dual Slalom and the men’s club downhill, sweeping the gravity events.
McDonough became the first USU cyclist to win a national championship and the first ever club champion from the state of Utah.
Sepp said that at first the transition from Dixie to USU’s club team was a little bit rocky.
“I didn’t know anybody when I went to the first race,” she said. “We’ve ended up being really good friends now, but it was a totally fresh start for me.”
Sepp added that the hardest part about competing on the club team was getting used to mountain bike competition without her father, who was her mechanic during her high school days.
“It’s cool to be competing on the collegiate level after coming from Dixie,” she said. “I’m pretty sure I’m one of the first kids they’ve had go on to race in college.”
Sepp is majoring in Kinesiology Exercise Science at USU.
“I love the mountains here in Logan, and it was super exciting to be on the mountain biking club team,” she said. “I’m already training for next year.”
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