Student to represent U.S. at Junior World Cycling Championship
While the rest of his classmates are getting to know each other during orientation activities on August 18, incoming Penn State Lehigh Valley freshman Matt Baranoski will be on the other side of the world competing at the 2011 Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) Juniors Track World Championships in Moscow, Russia. Baranoski joins 15 other athletes to represent the United States during the Aug. 17-21 competition.
Though the Perkasie native is a little disappointed about missing some of those first memory-making events of his college career, Baranoski is eager to give his all in an attempt to beat his bronze medal finish at the 2010 World Championships, a performance that automatically secured his spot on this year's team. However, even with one world championship showing under his belt, his participation this year was not a sure thing. In February, Baranoski fell ill with mononucleosis, and his training was significantly impaired.
"I wasn't sure I'd be able to compete at all this summer," says Baranoski, who plans to major in electrical engineering and minor in kinesiology at Penn State. "But then I started to feel better and made it to the junior national championship in July in Texas, where I ended up winning all five of my events."
His performance in July added to a list of wins that has been growing since Baranoski began racing at the Valley Preferred Cycling Center at age six. It was at the Trexlertown facility, formerly known as the Velodrome, that Baranoski and his brother got started in cycling through free programs offered by Air Products. With a natural talent for the sport, he won his age group at nationals at age 12 and his cycling career began to take shape. It has also remained a family affair with his father, Mike, serving as his coach.
Attending Penn State Lehigh Valley is helping the cyclist keep both his athletic and academic career on course. With its close proximity to the Valley Preferred track, the campus is the home of the Penn State cycling team which has won multiple collegiate national titles under the direction of coaching legend Jim Young. Academically, Baranoski is also a standout having been admitted to Penn State's prestigious Schreyer Honors College, which represents the top five percent of students at the University.
"Being in the Lehigh Valley, I've been able to ride with the best, including former Olympian Bobby Lea, a former Penn State Lehigh Valley cyclist, and Penn State is flexible in working with my cycling schedule. My goal is to follow in Lea's footsteps and qualify for the Olympic team in 2012 or 2016."
With all of his past success and inspiration from other cyclists to motivate him in Russia, Baranoski is still mindful of the reality that, when it comes to cycling, the U.S. is a major underdog.
"In Europe, cycling is like NASCAR. In countries like Australia, promising cyclists are sent to training academies. It's a totally different animal," says Baranoski. "My number one priority is to race to the best of my ability. Then it's back to get my classes started and start racing with the collegiate team."
Follow Baranoski's blog at www.mattbaranoski.wordpress.com.