Skyline High School graduate, Olympic cyclist Tela Crane, races for gold

July 24, 2012

By Lillian O'Rorke

Tela Crane, a 2004 Skyline High School graduate now riding for the USA Cycling Team, sets the national record for the 200-meter event during time trials in Colorado Springs, Colo. By Sandra Wright Sutherland

Under the scorching June 22 Colorado sun, Tela Crane zoomed around the velodrome, reaching 45 mph on her bike. After finishing the flying 200-meter sprint, Crane had a smile on her face.

She knew she had just pedaled to her personal best. However, she had no idea that her time of 11.04 seconds had just broken the 17-year-old national record.

“It was pretty much mind-blowing because I never would have expected that,” Crane said. “It was perfect conditions, and all my training and everything just came together.”

By the time Crane graduated from Skyline High School in 2004, she had already made a name for herself in the cycling world by winning two Junior Track National Championships in the 500 and the sprint.

Since then, cycling has taken the athlete, named for the beach in Honduras where her parents met, around the world, including Beijing and Columbia. Then, on Dec. 15, Crane was named to the 2012 Olympic track long team, becoming one in the pool of 11 women from which riders could be selected to compete in London.

“She’s living the dream. How can one not be incredibly proud and supportive?” asked her mother, Marie Michell-Crane. “She has always been so driven. She’s quite happy and content, works her butt off and it’s showing.”

Unfortunately for Crane, her team did not qualify for one of the two North and South American spots at this summer’s Olympic games.

“It was always a long shot for us,” she said, explaining that, on the international stage, the U.S. women’s sprinters are a relatively young team. And highs and lows, she added, are the nature of the sport — with several events in one day, you can set a record then lose your next race.

“It applies to the sport in general, there is definitely going to be really hard times but there are also really good times,” she said. “So being able to ride that rollercoaster is pretty important to learn how to do.”

Crane and her team are now focusing on the 2016 Olympics, which means four more years of balancing work, training, travel and competing.

While Crane lives near the U.S. team’s facilities in Los Angeles, where she trains roughly 20 hours a week, she is not paid to ride. Often, either the U.S. team or her local team, Broadmark Capital Lake Washington Velo Track Cycling, cover her travel expenses but there are still bills to pay. So she works two part-time jobs, one for an athletic clothing company and another teaching children’s riding classes at the nearby velodrome in Los Angeles.

“Of course it’s hard. It’s a lot of sacrificing,” Crane said. “It’s honestly a day-by-day, month-by-month, year-by-year thing. Financially, it’s really hard and I’ve put a lot of things on hold.”

One of those things is her writing career. Crane has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Western Washington University with a focus in public relations that she still has not put to use. And who knows if she ever will. For now, Crane said she really likes coaching and working with children.

“The littlest things about the sport excite them. For me, it is a job so it’s a good reminder for why I do it,” she said. “It sucks to be poor. That part is never easy but I still love this sport. I love riding my bike and getting better.”

At the moment, Crane is not slowing down. She is leading the National Track Calendar for women’s sprint standings and was the overall top sprinter July 21 at the Marymoor Grand Prix. Racing on the same velodrome track where her career began 11 years ago, Crane set a new track record for the flying 200. With a time of 11.991, she bested Jennie Reed’s previous record of 12.04, which has stood since 1996.

“You could just tell coming down that she was fast,” race coordinator David Mann said.

Crane also won the Grand Prix’s scratch and sprint events, while taking second in another race. Mann said he has watched Crane for years and her improvement was outstanding.

“Her confidence and her speed was fantastic,” he said. “She just keeps getting better. I wish they were holding all the Olympic trials now, because at this point I think she is much faster than she was six months ago.”

Crane has a few rare weeks of down time next. After that, her plans include a stop in Pennsylvania for more races, nationals at the end of September and the World Cup later in the year.

Lillian Tucker: 392-6434, ext. 242, or ltucker@sammamishreview.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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