Medal Stand: Ashton teen wins state cyclocross title

Ashton cyclocross competitor Kelton Williams trains at the St. Anthony sand dunes earlier this year. Photo courtesy of Kelson Bikes

Ashton teen cyclist Kelton Williams is headed for his third cyclocross nationals.

Williams, a Madison high school junior and son of Kelson Bikes owners Brian and Heather Williams, competes in Reno, Nev., from January 9-14 and is looking for his first top-10 finish. He placed 12th at last season’s nationals in January in Hartford, Conn., as one of the older competitors in the 15-16 age division — up from 48th place a year earlier — and was featured in Cyclocross Magazine in October. This year he will compete in the 17-18 age division.

“I said two years ago I was hoping for top 10. I still haven’t made that happen,” Williams said Wednesday in a phone interview with the Post Register. “I really, really want to get top 10, at least get up there with the competitive kids competing for the title. Compete, not just race.”

USA Cycling points are the criteria for making nationals. The more USA Cycling sanctioned races a cyclist competes in, the more points the cyclist can earn. Cyclists with the highest point totals in their age division will be positioned closer to the starting line at nationals. Williams was second row at last year’s nationals. He said his five best races will be used to determine his starting position this year, and he has three upcoming races in Colorado and one in Utah before nationals.

“We calculated it to be second row if not first (this year),” Williams said. “There’s not a lot of (USA Cycling sanctioned) races around here. I always have to make that jump over to Colorado to get points.”

Williams estimates he has been away from home every weekend for at least the last three months for a cyclocross race. His most recent race was over the weekend at the Ryan Franklin Memorial Idaho State Cyclocross Championship in Twin Falls, where he won Category 3. It was not his first state title — he previously won the 12-14 age division of the Utah State championships — but it was his first time competing at the Idaho state championships.

He almost could not make the trip due to a fever that kept him from training the previous week. He said he made the decision the night before to go through with it, but there were doubts on race day.

“I felt amazing the first couple laps,” Williams said. “The last couple laps, I started bonking and feeling like crap. I was worried about flatting and all that stuff. I took those bad thoughts out as quickly as I can. I just put my head down every lap and kept pedaling.”

Williams not only moved up an age division this year, but in USA Cycling categories. He was upgraded to Category 3 halfway through the 2016 season and he said he believes he will get upgraded to Category 2 soon. The most experienced cyclists compete at Category 1, and moving up involves acquiring USA Cycling points.

Williams has been used to competing against much older cyclists since his career began at age 11, and said he has always looked up to older cyclists. Reaching Category 2 as a junior in high school, however, is a reality still sinking in for him.

“I always saw people cheering for (older cyclists) and I thought how badly I wanted to do that,” Williams said. “It feels amazing to be able to do that.”

The accomplishment is especially impressive considering Williams, who is coached by his father, is working to graduate a year early. He has had to adjust his practice and racing schedule accordingly due to his school work. He said he has several big unfulfilled goals for the sport and several full-time cyclists he admires.

“I do look up to those guys and I know I can make it there,” Williams said. “It’s definitely an option. It just takes a lot of work.”

Coming up locally

The Jackson Hole Snocross National takes place Friday and Saturday at Snow King Mountain Resort. Tucker Hibbert, a 14-time Winter X Games medalist (and 10-time X Games champion) and Driggs native, will be competing. Hibbert lived in Teton County until age 12, when his family relocated to Minnesota.

Two events take place Saturday at Grand Targhee Resort: the Targhee Tune Up Freestyle Nordic races and Fat Bike Race No. 1. Registration for both events is the day of.

Team USA Updates

Rigby snowboarder Jessika Jenson resumes Olympic qualifying today at the Copper Mountain Grand Prix at Copper Mountain Resort, Colo. She will be competing in big air.

Mikaela Shiffrin got her career first downhill win on Saturday at the World Cup stop in Lake Louise, finishing in one minute, 27.55 seconds. The win came 24 hours after making her career first downhill podium by placing third at the same venue. This weekend was the third World Cup downhill of her career. The 2014 Olympic women’s slalom champion has made the podium in five of the six World Cups she has competed in thus far this season.