Watching Mateen warm up in the pre dawn mist, I exclaimed to Tom Durkin, and my wife Sarah Joy, (and anyone else who would listen, "We made it!"
"With every practice lap, he is justifying our practice, our perseverance, and the plethora of pre-paid passes!"
It was such a thrill to be at the raceside, in Fort Steilacoom Park. Arriving rested and ready, we remembered business leaders like, Holly Bussmus (see here), Steve Martine (see here), Bob Mionskie (see here), Bob Grummel (see here), and Dave Guettler (see here) came together and supported a local HS student's dream.
After pre-riding the course on the day before his Junior 17-18 Juniors' race, Mateen Richey said with some wide eyed concern, "it's a hard course!"
Mud teaches many lessons.
Seventy young men from all over The Nation brought their bicycles to Tacoma Washington on Sunday December 15th to face the mud, and each other in the 2019 United States Cyclocross Championship, and no one rode away unchanged.
Called up to the start line in 69th place, Mateen had a plan.
He knew his one advantage at the back
was a clear view of the whole pack in front of him. Mateen's plan was to watch for congestion early, and try to go around.
He figured, if he could find a clear line early, he could establish a good position to chase the front runners.
When the race began, the pace was very fast. It was all he could do to hold his position, until congestion came upon the set up corner to the big muddy run up. This was the early congestion he was looking for. When suddenly twenty people bogged down almost to a stop Mateen went around the outside out into the tape.
Running into the pit, he found three men waiting including Denzel, Bob Grummel, and his father Mikail, were all waiting to hand him a new bike.
By this time however, all the wrestling around the broken saddle had done its damage to his position in the race. After the bike swap, Mateen fought to hold on and ended up racing near other familiar Oregon riders, but never to surge past 50th again. Finishing 56th and not being lapped were his victories in his first Cross Nationals.
Mateen was in a fight amongst the back 30. Racing hard, Mateen saw it as a good race because he came in thirteen places improved.
Finishing amidst other well known Oregon riders just four seconds behind Jackson Loftus and ahead of Tigard's Tyger Westerfield it was a familiar finish.
Benefits of going to Nationals included a new strength found. A humbled realization, and an elegant sense of self initialized. Parents and family were drawn together and encouraged. Our foundation is in place to improve in 2020.