This article is provided courtesy of Brooke Frazier, a Baylor University Student.
It’s A blood-stained University of Texas jersey acted as a sling, holding together the shattered bones and dangling arm of one of Baylor’s riders in the Mountain Bike Conference Championship Race at Reveille Peak Ranch. A rigid, rocky drop-off in the course ended up being the biggest competition in the race that morning.
“I had a gut feeling it wasn’t going to be my best race. Once you hit the first technical section, you can usually tell if it’s going to be your day or not,” Braeden Murphy said. It was not his day.
Murphy, a freshman from Flower Mound, was racing for Baylor when he hit rocky terrain and wrecked, ending his race early. The tumble left him with a triple spiral fracture of the humerus, a broken nose, an upper lip slit open all the way to the gums, and a shattered cheekbone. With no form of communication available deep in the trails, his chance for escape sat at the will of his competitors.
“Everyone that passed me after I went down stopped and sacrificed their position in the race to help. That was huge. I don’t know how I would’ve gotten out of that situation without them,” Murphy said.
Dr. Trent Dougherty, the faculty sponsor of the Baylor Mountain Bike Club, said he has been involved with the team since it was founded in 2008. From his years with the program, he said one of the coolest moments was watching the team come together and surround Murphy after the accident. “They showed unity and concern that really made me proud of them- even more so than winning,” Dougherty said.
One of his teammates, Fiona Dougherty, a freshman from Waco, was with him from the moment he crashed to the time he was rushed to the hospital. She said she was taken back after seeing riders from different schools throw away their chances in the race to help in anyway they could. “It’s a family. You take care of each other no matter what,” she said.
Murphy said he joined the Baylor team this year looking for community that shares his itch for riding, but it wasn’t until after he found himself helpless and battered that “the community became more apparent,” he said. To him, their character became transparent in that moment. He said he felt overwhelmingly grateful for those who hopped off their bikes during a race with such high stakes in order to help.
Despite the fact that the Conference Championship race didn’t go quite as planned for many of Baylor’s riders, the team placed second in the conference this season.
Mountain biking at Baylor is a club sport and is often overlooked on campus. Mountain bike season hits in the fall, and riders from Baylor travel to face regional competition such as Texas A&M and the University of Texas.
The team is a patchwork of various levels of skill and experience, but the common thread is their passion for riding. Some members just recently picked up the sport while some, like Fiona Dougherty, a freshman from Waco, said they have been on a bike since the moment they could walk. Fiona races competitively outside of Baylor and recently acquired her professional license. Despite her fervent nature, she said she rides collegiately for the relational and recreational components of the sport.
AJ Ashcroft, a junior from Wisconsin, said that some of her favorite memories from the season came from the moments before and after the races. She said that the riders from all of the schools competing camp out together for the weekend and ride together after the race. Ashcroft was the only rider from the team that got to represent Baylor at nationals in Missoula, Montana this fall. She said that she wasn’t even expecting to quality for nationals, but she ending up placing 17th in the nation.
Mountain biking is typically a male-dominated sport, but Ashcroft uses that as motivation to become a better athlete. “I like the challenge of having to hold your own with the guys,” she said.
Murphy said that one of the coolest things about being a part of mountain biking team is the motivating factor of racing against his own teammates. At the races, there is an individual component as well as a team component. “I joined the team this year because it would be better to race for something bigger than myself,” Murphy said.
Trent, the faculty sponsor, is also a philosophy professor at Baylor. Despite his busy academic schedule, he said he keeps coming back to the team because it allows him to share his passion for cycling with students. “I already am able to connect with students over academic stuff,” he said, “but academics is only part of the story. It’s nice to have a more personal dimension of contact with the students.”nice to have a more personal dimension of contact with the students.”
Trent said his primary role is to serve as a mentor to the riders who come through the organization. In addition, he said he provides continuity and stability as students graduate and move on from the team and new riders arrive.
Murphy was one of the few new additions to the team this fall. Though his first season with Baylor ended prematurely, he said he is even more eager to get back and ride. “While it sucks to have something you love just taken away from you in an instant, it gives me motivation to push through physical therapy and rehab the next few months so I can get back out there,” he said.
Logan Robertson, a sophomore from Wyoming, said that he is drawn in by the danger of the sport. “Personally I just like the thrill of going fast on a bike and that it’s dangerous,” he said.
Robertson is the Baylor Cycling Club President. He said he has ambitious hopesfor the future of the organization. “The officers are working a lot harder the next couple years to grow the team because our plans for the team are a lot bigger than what we have right now,” he said. In the future, Robertson said he would love to see more organized weekly rides as a group, and he, with the help of some of the other officers, is in the process of planning a trip in the spring for the team.
Within Cameron Park’s 416 acres are some of the best trails for mountain biking in Texas, according to many of the team members. The team has optional rides in the park several times a week, but many often train on their own schedule.
The Baylor Mountain Bike Team is competitive and has proved to be successful the past few seasons, but the members are focused and grounded on building relationships and fostering a love for the sport.