Colorado’s Morris Sisters Reach For The Top In Ski Racing and Cycling
Kristen Lummis, braveskimom.com
When Marta Morris was ten she broke her leg ski racing. “Suddenly she couldn’t ski, or do her other sports, and we had to help her use up some of that energy. The doctor cleared her to use a spin bike. It turns out Marta loves spinning and so that spring she joined a cycling team,” explained Marta’s mom, Stephanie.
I was talking with Stephanie about how she and her husband Johnny have raised two poised, intelligent, funny, talented daughters, who excel in not one, but two demanding sports. Stephanie continues,” The girls like to be together and Birgit didn’t want to be left out.” So by mid-season of that summer, Marta’s younger sister Birgit, then 8, had also joined the Two Rivers Cycling Team, out of Silt, Colorado.
Four years later, at age 14, Marta Morris is a Category 3 road bike racer who placed second at Nationals last summer in Augusta, Georgia. She is also a member of the national JETCycling Junior Women’s Elite Team. Birgit is a junior bike racer in Colorado. When I asked Birgit about her best finishes last season, Birgit put it plainly, “I got two firsts.” As for ski racing, did it go by the wayside? No way. Both Marta and Birgit qualified for the USSA Junior Olympics as 11-12 year olds and both hope to qualify again this year. Oh, and they’ve also taken up Nordic skate skiing.
As if this isn’t enough Marta, an 8th grader, swims on a junior team at Colorado Mesa University and Birgit plays lacrosse and bow hunts with her father. Both girls are outstanding students. In fact, doing well in school is the carrot that drives the athletics. “We let them miss school when they need to for races and special events,” says Stephanie. “But they have to stay on the honor roll.”
And When Do You Rest?
Chatting with Stephanie, I am beginning to wonder if the Morris family ever sleeps. I also wonder about the Morris parents, Stephanie and Johnny. I know they are proud of their daughter’s achievements, but I have to ask: How do they balance all of this activity and stay sane? Do they ever regret devoting so much time to these sports?
Stephanie just laughed. “I would say that for both cycling and skiing, the sports have kept our family together. We have bonded around activities that we all understand and enjoy.”
In fact, Stephanie was a high school ski racer in Minnesota and Johnny raced bikes at the University of Colorado. So for the Morris family, skiing and cycling aren’t spectator sports. Instead, they are family activities in which they all participate.
Adds Stephanie, “While Johnny and I aren’t ski racing, we are gate keepers and referees. We’re active in supporting our clubs and other ski and bike racers. During cycling season, I ride along with some of the younger riders as a chaperone, while Johnny has started racing again. Some kids on the team don’t have bikes, so we share equipment to get them out riding. This is something all of us love and we can do forever.”
It Has To Be Fun
And what about Marta and Birgit? What do they think about all the time they’ve devoted to these sports?
“I like ski racing best,” says 7th grader Birgit, “Even if I’m not feeling psyched to ski, I just remember the times that I’ve won and that feeling gets me pumped up.” So far this season, Birgit’s best finishes include a second in Super G and a second in Slalom at regional USSA races in Colorado.
As for Marta, her focus is shifting more and more toward cycling. “I just really like having to work hard for the feeling I get when I go riding. I like the feeling of the wind and getting to go to where ever I want. It is really different from anything else.” This doesn’t mean she’s giving up ski racing anytime soon. “I’ve been skiing for so long and I hope to always have a passion for it,” says Marta. “I’m really proud that I made the Junior Olympics as a J4 (age 11-12). Lots of kids tended to drop out when they were younger. I stuck with it and made it fun for myself.”
And therein lies the key to the Morris sisters and their family’s success. For them, ski racing and bike racing are fun. “If it’s not fun, they won’t do it for long,” explained Stephanie. “Even kids who are super good when they’re little will quit if the sport isn’t fun. We want our girls to have a lifelong passion for activity and adventure. That’s our goal. I ski better when I have a smile on my face. I know they do too.”
To read more about Marta Morris and the JETCycling Junior Women’s Elite Team, follow Marta’s blog at http://mmontheline.wordpress.com.
Erica Lineberry, cragmama.com
Ever wondered how to get your family into climbing? It may be easier than you think! Follow these simple steps and you may be surprised how soon you’ll be out on the rocks having fun!
- Find a Local Gym. Most cities have at least one rock gym, and every gym should have some sort of intro class, where you will learn how to tie in to the rope, key safety commands, as well as how to keep your partner safe when (not if!) they fall. Many gyms also have a Kid’s Climbing Team that you can sign your child up for if he/she expresses a lot of interest.
- Make Friends. The quickest way to learn the lingo and meet the locals is to jump right in and get involved wherever you can. Climbing is a social sport deeply rooted in community. Sure you’ll find a few egos that can barely fit through the door occasionally, but for the most part climbers are very open to new folks. Don’t be afraid to approach climbers that are stronger/more experienced than you and ask for help. Any climber worth knowing would be happy to help – after all, even the elite were beginners once!
- Get out! Sure indoor climbing is fun, but that’s only the beginning. The real magic happens outside, when it’s just you and the rock – there’s no colord tape to point out where the holds are, and your end goal is atop a cliff with spectacular mountain vistas not the i-beams at the top of an industrial warehouse building. The easiest ways to get yourself climbing outside? Refer back to steps 1 and 2. If a local gym is within reasonable driving distance to any type of real rock, odds are good that they will be offering guided trips to a local crag – usually gear rentals are included in the price. These guided trips can get pretty expensive though, so if you’re climbing on a shoestring budget, a better bet is to get to know the local climbers and let them know you’re interesting in touching some real rock. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for meet-up groups or climbers looking for partners on the bulletin board in your rock gym. Make friends and sooner or later you’re bound to score an invite on a weekend trip!
Developing your Junior Cyclist
Jen Charette, velomom.com
Has your child taken an interest in racing their road or mountain bike? In the past few years there has been an increase in programs and races aimed at juniors. Recently, US marathon national champion Pua Mata assembled a team including her and four lucky high school girls for the 12 hours of Temecula at Vail lake Resort in Temecula, California. The opportunities are out there and below are a few places to start looking.
Local Development Programs – In cycling hubs such as Boulder and Durango there are junior development cycling clubs/teams. These programs focus on building skills while embedding a lifelong love of cycling. Check with your local cycling groups to see if a program exists in your area. You can also start one if none exist. I recently contacted Durango Devo and they helped me start a chapter in our town.
NICA- National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) is the National Governing Body for High School Mountain Bike League – or grades 9-12 interscholastic cross country mountain biking. They state that their mission is developing strong minds, strong bodies and strong character in high school aged student-athletes through this competitive sport. They currently have teams and races in California, Texas, Colorado, Washington, Minnesota and Utah.
USA Cycling Development Pathway – USA Cycling has a path to recognize and develop future racers. The path centers around USA Cycling races and camps. They also patner with Lance Armstrong and Alison Dunlap to provide a few races around the country aimed at juniors. If your junior does well in these races they can advance, attend development camps and maybe one day stand on the podium of a major race.
These programs will continue to expand and improve as we share our passion for cycling with our children.
Category: Outdoor Kids