Posts tagged ‘Cycling’

Shawn Morelli Takes Home a Paralympic Gold

It took one day for a Penn State alumna to win a gold medal at the 2016 Paralympics. Shawn Morelli ’98 Behrend, a member of the United States Paralympic Cycling Team, took home the gold in the C4 classification of the 3,000 meter individual pursuit on Thursday. Athletes who compete under the C4 classification suffer from upper or lower limb impairments and low-level neurological impairment.

Morelli, an Army veteran who made her Olympic debut on Thursday at the age of 40, began cycling in 2009 after a tour of duty in Afghanistan. While serving as an engineer officer in 2007, Morelli suffered neck and nerve damage, brain trauma, and blindness in her left eye due to an IED explosion.

The gold medal came somewhat comfortably for Morelli, as her time of 3:59.407 was more than five seconds faster than her closest competitor. It was just below the world record time of 3:55.006—which Morelli set earlier this year.

UPDATE: Morelli won her second gold medal on Wednesday, as she came in first place in the road cycling time trial C4 classification. Her time of 29:45.40 was 30.32 seconds faster than the competitor who won the silver.

Bill DiFilippo, online editor

September 13, 2016 at 11:44 am Leave a comment

NASCAR on Two Wheels

Photo via Steve Boyle

Photo via Steve Boyle

His older brother loved to race bikes, and so, as a boy of only 5 or 6, Matt Baranoski found himself dragged along to the track. He was technically too young to join in, but he knew how to ride, and it hardly seemed fair to make a kid that age sit and watch while the older boys had all the fun. So his parents asked, and the folks in charge at the Lehigh Valley Velodrome said sure, and an exception was made.

Fifteen years and a cabinet-full of trophies later, the exception seems to have worked out pretty well.

It’s late April as Baranoski tells the story by phone from suburban Toronto, where he’s part of a select group of cyclists training at a sparkling new Canadian cycling center. It’s among the best facilities of its kind in the world, and the elite competition is exactly what he needs as he works to peak in time for Rio. “It’s always good to be pushed,” he says.

Photo via Steve Boyle

Photo via Steve Boyle

In truth, Baranoski doesn’t seem like the type to struggle for motivation. A junior national champion by the time he was 12, able to hold his own against top international competition just a few years later, he quite literally never slowed down. His ambitions on the track informed his college choice: The Perkasie, Pa., native chose Penn State Lehigh Valley because of the proximity of the world-class velodrome and the campus’s cycling program, led by longtime coach Jim Young, whom Baranoski calls “a legend in the collegiate cycling world.” (Baranoski will be joined in Rio by Bobby Lea ’06 Berks, a fellow Lehigh Valley alum making his third Olympic appearance.)

Baranoski rides in an event called the keirin, which he calls “the most fun race on the track.” It’s an eight-lap sprint around the 250-meter banked track, paced by a motorcycle, that leads Baranoski to compare it to NASCAR; world-class cyclists will approach 50 miles per hour down the stretch, occasionally bumping each other to protect their position. “For the last two and a half laps,” he says, “it’s all-out war.”

Six days after his final race in Rio, Baranoski will be back at University Park for his final semester in the Schreyer Honors College; the electrical engineering major is set to graduate in December. It’s a quick turnaround, but if anyone can handle that sort of pace, he’s probably the guy.

This story appears in the July/August 2016 issue of The Penn Stater, the official publication of the Penn State Alumni Association. Not a member? Click here to join.

Ryan Jones, deputy editor

August 4, 2016 at 11:07 am 2 comments

Matt Baranoski Gets Back on Track

Lehigh Valley Live published a story on Matt Baranoski, the Penn State student who will compete at the Olympics this summer (and who graces the cover of our July/August issue). An electrical engineering major who is on track to graduate in December, Baranoski is one of the premier cyclists in America.

Baranoski hit a serious bump in the road in 2012 that delayed his ascent to the top of American cycling. As he explains alongside his orthopedic surgeon, Baranoski had the opportunity to compete in nationals, but two weeks prior to the event, he broke his collarbone in a crash and needed surgery that required inserting a plate and eight screws.

Baranoski bounced back from that injury in a big way, and now, he has his eyes set on a gold medal in the keirin at Rio 2016. If you’d like to watch Baranoski compete, all of the men’s keirin races will take place on Tuesday, August 16. You can find the day’s schedule right here.

Bill DiFilippo, online editor

July 29, 2016 at 12:03 pm Leave a comment

Matt Baranoski is Heading to Rio

matt baranoskiThe United States’ Olympic Track Cycling team will feature a soon-to-be Penn State alumnus in Rio de Janeiro. Matt Baranoski, a student who will receive his degree in electrical engineering this year, was named to the team on Friday afternoon.

Despite being only 22, Baranoski has an impressive resume. Baranoski competed at the USA Cycling Collegiate Track National Championships in 2011, 2012, and 2013, competing in eight races over all three years and winning seven of them. (The one he didn’t win? He came in second.)

On the national stage, the Schreyer Honors College student has several titles from the USA Cycling Elite Track National Championships. Baranoski first competed at nationals in 2010, where he became the youngest national champion in U.S. history at the age of 17 when he won keirin event. He’s since gone on to win a number of titles at other Elite Track National Championships.

If you’d like to see all of Baranoski’s achievements on the track, here is the list of his race results. Just be warned: There are literally hundreds of entries dating back to 2004.

Bill DiFilippo, online editor

March 22, 2016 at 1:40 pm Leave a comment


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