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By Jeremia Schrock
Sun Star Reporter
The Sun Star’s Jeremia Schrock reports on location as a team of UAF students competes in the Fireweed 200 bicycle race.
Yesterday’s overcast and windy conditions gave way to today’s blue skies and sun. The weather in Anchorage was promising, but that would mean little if the weather on Sheep Mountain weren’t. At noon team Killasaurus Wrecks assembled their gear into the living room of Bippy’s house and a shout erupted from the kitchen:
“Dad!” It was Bippy’s voice, but her father wasn’t there. Her father, Mark Kennicker, was also competing in the Fireweed 200, but he had already left for Sheep Mountain.
Keill was swearing. I felt like I had missed half the conversation so I asked the team what had happened.
“Our bikes are in the garage,” said Swibold. “The garage is locked.”
Bippy stormed past me, cursing aloud. “I should have known better!” she shouted. “I should have been more diligent.” Her role as team captain was no doubt proving to be stressful. The team was granted relief minutes later Bippy discovered the garage door opener. “Oh, thank god,” she said.
I asked the team how they felt about the race the following morning. Both Bippy and Keill were nervous, but Swibold was, “excited. There’s nothing to be worried about, so I’m not worried. We’re [going to be] on a major highway, so all we have to worry about is car safety.”
Keill, who swam for Lathrop High School and was a member of their 2003 state championship team, credited his past as a swimmer for preparing him for the race. “I used to be a distance swimmer, so I think through the pain. I say to myself ‘just keep going, just keep going, just keep going’ and then I’m fine.”
The team left Anchorage in the early afternoon. By 4:15 PM we were heading east down the Glenn Highway. I asked them if they felt any different about the approaching race. “Still excited,” said Swibold, who was actively massaging Bippy’s shoulders from the back seat. “Thinking about the boredom of the car rides and what I’ll do to amuse myself.” He smiled, “I’ll probably just massage Bippy’s shoulders!”
Both Keill and Bippy both felt less worried. “Now that we’re on the road and actually heading there I feel better” said Keill. I asked everyone if they had any plans to celebrate after they finished.
“Go eat dinner and then fall asleep,” Bippy half-jokingly and then in full seriousness, “I don’t know what we’re gonna do to celebrate.”
Swibold (17) chimed in, “You guys could go to a bar and just drop me off somewhere.” Keill cursed at the idea, before Bippy responded, “the last thing I want to do while I’m dehydrated is to go drinking!”
We arrived at Sheep Mountain at 5:30 PM. The team set up their tent and lounged around before heading down to the Sheep Mountain Lodge for a quick dinner. Afterward, Keill and Bippy relaxed in the tent, reading and listening to music. Swibold checked his bike and filled his Camelback (a specially designed backpack for holding water). Everyone had to be up by 5:15 the following morning and as anyone who has done anything important early in the morning knows: morning comes swiftly and with a vengeance.