Maybe altitude is a factor in attitude because Colorado seems to have more than its share of extreme athletic kids. This is especially true in Boulder County. For example, Boulder resident Stella Noble climbed the sheer faced Diamond section of the 14,259 foot mountain Longs Peak at age nine with her dad. The last person that held that record was professional mountain climber Tommy Caldwell, who climbed that route at age 12, also with his dad.
Cross Country champion Paul Roberts became the first male runner to win four individual state cross country championships last fall. As well he placed 59th in the IAFF World Cross Country Championships in China the year before after placing in the top six for the chance to compete in China. His father, Mark Roberts, has been the cross country coach at Lyons Senior High for 20 years and Paul comes from a running family including his older brother Andrew and two older sisters Melissa and Miriam who also have major running accomplishments.
Proximity to the mountains is what makes a lot of these kids get physical. With at least four indoor climbing gyms (one specifically for youth) in Boulder alone, climbing both indoors and out is an opportunity kids in Kansas just don’t get. Stunning views and easy access prompt all kinds of biking. Of course all winter sports are easy enough with Eldora Ski resort nearby and world class skiing at the major ski resorts just a few hours away.
However, what makes these kids great athletes is not just their physical abilities and mountain proximity but their joy in life and love of the sport. For these next three youth athletes the love of their sport began at an early age.
Cassidy (17), Kahill (11), and Chase (9) Bailey were instilled with the love of biking through their mother Lina Dzekciorius Bailey of Lyons, who is also a competitive racer. “After I had my second baby I would train for Ride the Rockies. I’d put my kids in trailers and ride 60-70 miles a day. During the race my husband would meet me at certain points so I could breastfeed. We did that for many years,” she said. Her husband Dave, said “we just threw the kids in trailers and rode all the passes. They’ve been on a bike in some fashion for years.”
Cassidy Bailey, now age 17 and a junior at Boulder High School, started racing at age 9. According to his dad, Cassidy came late to biking but has since caught up. Cassidy is a podium winner in both mountain biking and cyclocross (CX). He has been racing the Open Pro regional CX races since 2015 as well as competing in his junior age category.
His early years saw many CX podiums and a few State championship wins plus the top five national podiums including a fourth place in Bend, Ore. and in Verona, Wis. He also placed third in the large Derby City cup in Kentucky.
He was the first ever junior in high school to win the Varsity Mountain Bike title through the Colorado High School Mountain Biking leagues.
According to his dad, Cassidy didn’t love mountain biking right away. “The first time he was on a mountain bike he cried,” said David. But Cassidy soon got over his fears. “Initially he was winning a lot and that was huge for him because he didn’t know if he was good or not. Then he liked winning — a little bit of success goes a long way,” says his dad. “As it gets more challenging the social aspect keeps a lot of the racers competing. Relationships in middle and high school can be tenuous and the racing community is an amazing social safety net.”
What Cassidy loves about biking: “My favorite thing about biking is the sense of freedom. Just go out in the mountains and ride and enjoy everything. You go as hard as you can. It feels good to just go hard. I love going off on the start line in a race.”
What Cassidy doesn’t love about biking: “For me, it’s the stress and commitment involved. I spend a lot of time on my bike. If I want to rock climb I have to ride my bike instead. It’s constricting because I can’t do all the things I want to do.”
Cassidy’s Career thoughts: Cassidy would like to pursue opportunities in the medical field. At age 13 he earned his Wilderness First Responder credentials.
Kahill (11) started riding two wheel bikes at age two and was racing before there was even an age category for him. According to Lina her son would line up with kids three years older than him in cyclocross and often times get to the podium. “We were eventually told by officials he was going to have to wait until he could legally race or his results wouldn’t count.” Kahill is a mountain biker, competes in cyclocross and loves to ride his unicycle.
In 2015-16 Kahill took 2nd place in Cyclocross Regional Championships and then went on to win the Colorado State Cyclocross title.
In 2016 he was 5th overall in the Nation for cyclocross this year in Asheville, N.C.
2014 he placed 2nd in the nation at Cyclocross in Austin.
What Kahill loves about biking: “I like being able to ride my bike and have fun with it.
What Kahill doesn’t love about biking: “Getting up early for bike rides.”
Kahill’s Career thoughts: “I want to be a pro-biker.”
Chase (9), just like his name, chased his big brothers for so long that the start line seemed natural to him. At age 8 Chase started racing. He took racing and riding very casually until just this past summer. Then, according to his mom, he found his legs “and showed everyone what he could really do.” Because Chase likes a variety of biking (XC, MTB and the unicycle) he decides whether he was going to race by asking the venues if they offered donuts.
In 2015 he placed third in mountain biking in the nation in Mammoth, Calif.
Although he hasn’t competed Chase has become amazing at unicycle skills
What Chase loves about biking: “I like being in the race.”
Chase’s Career thoughts: “I want to be a scientist, an inventor, and a pro-biker.”
The Family: Lina, Dave and the boys all focus on their family more than the do placing on the podium. According to Lina “Our biggest thing isn’t striving to win but to try our best. We put a lot of money and time into this. We fill up our RV with our kids, dogs and guinea pigs and head out. It’s just fun. There are a lot of life lessons built into this “It’s something we all do together. It’s a lifelong sport. All they’ve known is riding bikes. It’s been our family thread. We all ride together. It’s been an essential bond and this is what keeps us close and weaves us all together.”
On a Friday night in January of 2015 in the emergency room of Children’s Hospital Denver Sofia, then age 11, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. On Monday morning she was back at school and at gymnastics practice.
At age 4 Sofia was a gymnast, a soccer player and a skier. She decided she liked gymnastics the best and wanted to do that full time. She started training at a private club in Boulder but did not find success until she moved to her current gym, Flatirons Gymnastics in Broomfield and started training with her new coaches, Kassie and Justin Haag.
Sofia, who lives in Boulder, works out 20 hours a week and competes in Colorado and other states as well. She does well in school to boot. According to Flatirons Team Manager Kassie Haag she is also an amazing support system for the rest of their team. “She’s the first member to offer encouraging words to other athletes when they are physically or emotionally struggling in practice or at a meet,” says Haag.
The diagnosis of type 1 diabetes changed her life but also changed her as an athlete. Type 1 diabetes has no cure but it can be managed. According to the Mayo Clinic it is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin, a hormone needed to allow sugar (glucose) to enter cells to produce energy. This disease was formerly known as juvenile diabetes or insulin dependent diabetes.
For the rest of season after Sofia’s diagnosis she fought to achieve the same placement as she did at her first meet of the season, which she won. Diabetes could have negatively impacted Sofia’s season, she could have quit and given up on her love for the sport, but she did not.
In 2015 Sofia was the Level 7 State Champion for 11-12 year olds. She also went on to compete at the Regional meet, where she placed 2nd. Now she is a Level 8 gymnast. There are 10 Levels of USA gymnastics and 10 is the elite level.
When Coach Kassie told Sofia that she wanted to submit her to the YellowScene as a SuperKid for extraordinary athletes Sofia’s reaction was “Why? I’m not that extraordinary.”
“I think the most amazing thing about Sofia is not her ability to compete with her illness, or her ability to win gymnastic meets, it is her ability to make everyone around her feel supported. She is truly an amazing asset to our team,” said Coach Kassie.
In April, of 2015, Sofia came in first place at Colorado Level 7 State Championships. She also came in second place at Level 7 Regionals in her age division. This was 2.5 months after her diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes. “I’m not sure how I did that…” Sofia said.
What Sofia doesn’t like about her diagnosis: “When my blood sugar is high or low it prevents me from performing the way I want to because my body gets tired. Mentally it makes me lose my confidence because I can’t concentrate and that makes me scared.”
Sofia’s Idols are: “I have always loved going to the University of Denver Pioneer gymnastic meets and watching Nina Mcgee and Mohria Martin compete because they are so much fun to watch and so talented. Someday I hope to compete in college gymnastics. Other idols are, Gabby Douglas and Nastia Liukin.”
The best part about competing: “The best part is my teammates! We all support and encourage each other every day and we have a lot of fun even though we are working hard. It is also really really cool when you gain a new skill. Secondly, knowing that Coach Kassie is always there to monitor my blood sugar and my Omnipod insulin pump, which keeps me safe at practice. The worst part is having to deal with aches and pains from all the training. It’s really good to have a great physical therapist, massage therapist, chiropractor, and orthopedic doctor to stay healthy. “
Sofia’s future career thoughts: “I think I would like to be in the medical field so I could help people in the way that they are helping me. Being a gymnastics coach would be kind of cool too.”
It helps when your mom and dad are professional climbers, but the essence of elite climbing belongs to Brooke herself.
At age 1 Brooke starting climbing. Then, around age four or five (nobody is sure when) she started climbing regularly. This coincided with her mom and elite climber, Robyn Erbesfield Raboutou, opening up ABC Kids Climbing in Boulder. It was the first climbing gym to cater specifically to the athletic needs of kids.
In 2005 Robyn, a five-time US Champion and four-time World Cup Champion in climbing, formed the elite Team ABC Boulder. Brooke, along with her older brother Shawn (also an elite climber) were there from the beginning. The entire family enjoys climbing both inside the gym (sport climbing) and outside when possible.
At the age of eight Brooke broke her first World Record by becoming the youngest female in the world to climb the US equivalent of an E6 (5.12+) route, which is an elite climber’s route. Later, at age 11 she became the youngest person ever to climb a 5.14b route, which she accomplished in Rodellar, Spain.
Brooke still chooses to compete internationally, hang out with her friends and team friends and spend time with her parents and brother. One of the possible goals in her future? The Olympics, which may include climbing in the future.