SportsHi Athlete of the Month: Elizabeth Nakai

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At the start of the 2020-2021 school year at Arizona College Prep, a new club was founded called SportsHI. This club is made up of student-athletes that engage in leadership workshops, sports marketing, and scholarship talk. Each month the club selects an athlete to present as the SportsHI Athlete of the Month. For the month of January, ACP’s mountain biking team’s founder, Elizabeth Nakai, was selected. Coming into ACP freshman year, Elizabeth had a strong love for mountain biking, and it resulted in her collaborating with faculty and parents to begin her very own team starting for the 2017-2018 school year in which the team competed in its first race in the NICA (National interscholastic cycling association). We had a few questions for her regarding her experiences during her time on the team. 

Q: What are some of the struggles you found in beginning the team?

A: In my first year, we found that it was difficult to find people that were interested. I think when people first imagine mountain biking, they’re picturing something more extreme than what our school club practices. Once I tried mountain biking, I realized that it wasn’t as scary as I had anticipated, so I encourage others to get over their initial fear and try it. Because mountain biking is seen as a male-dominated sport, I also strived to get more girls involved. My first year, it was just another girl and I, but I’m happy to say that this last year we had nine. This year, I focused on ensuring that our lady riders were comfortable and planned a few female-only rides to better the bond between us.

Q: How would you describe your high school experience of being on the mountain biking team?

A: My experience of being on the team has been spectacular. I feel like the team allows us to meet new people and share fun experiences. In normal years not affected by COVID, we would have team dinners before race day. We would all chat and play games before our day of racing. I know a lot of riders prefer those to the actual races because they can hang out with their friends and share the excitement of mountain biking. After the race season is over, some of us still get together on the weekends to ride with each other or to participate in more races.

Q: How has COVID impacted your season this year, and what did the team do following the cancellation of races?

A: The only way our season was impacted by COVID was the cancellation of our race season. We were still fortunate enough to be able to get together and practice our skills on the canal, at parks, and on trails. Our weekly training schedule stayed the same although we had to put in more safety precautions that involved wearing masks and social distancing in order to meet COVID guidelines. I think that in a way, we were having more fun because there was less pressure for us to train hard, and we could just go out and enjoy the trails.

Q:  Do you have any aspirations of mountain biking after high school?

A: After high school, I’m attending the Colorado School of Mines and I plan on trying out for their cycling team.

With all of Elizabeth’s accomplishments, she was well deserving of ACP’s SportsHI athlete of the month award. Without her contributions to the school, the mountain biking team would not have been possible or be in the excellent position it is in today. Congratulations on this achievement and we wish you the best of luck in your college career!