Emma High, a sophomore studying recreation management, is an accomplished mountain biker. While most people ride their bikes only for exercise or as a hobby, this Idaho native has had the opportunity to take her two wheels to the next level.
After joining her middle school cross-country mountain biking team back in eighth grade, High found instant success.
“I won my first race,” High said. “That gave me the confidence to know that I can push myself to do hard things.”
Over the next few years, she continued to put her confidence to the test as she raced her bike throughout Idaho.
Upon reaching high school, High began racing in the “Varsity” category, placing her in competition with some of the best high school riders in the state.
“Every person has worked to get there,” High said. “They don’t just hop on their bikes, ride a lap and call it good … they’re there to win just as much as you’re there to win.”
And win she did.
“Each year was a little bit different … but at the end of every season, I always finished top five in my category,” High said.
After her final year of high school racing, she decided to pursue a dream she’d had since her first year of racing by applying to a couple of semi-pro teams. But after several rejections — and feeling quite discouraged — she thought it might be time to hang up her helmet.
It was only when her dream seemed officially dead in the water that she finally got an email inviting her onto a specialized semi-pro team.
Like in high school, High excelled at racing, usually winning in the top two or three. In addition, she continued to travel throughout Idaho and Utah, meeting new people and establishing herself as an up-and-comer in the cross-country scene.
At the end of her first season, High achieved any solo athlete’s dream. She had stood on the first-place podium, worthy competitors on either side and looked out on her cheering supporters. The hours upon hours of training, thousands of dollars and total focus over the years had led to this moment. It was all worth it, but to High, not worth repeating.
“After you race bikes for so long, it can be pretty draining,” High said. “Obviously, it’s still my passion, but there’s a point where it becomes not your passion, and I didn’t want to hit that point.”
High had achieved one of her greatest goals, which is something all of us hope to do. But sensing burnout, great expenses and not enough time in her future, she decided to quit while she was ahead and settle down as a full-time student and wife.
Nowadays, she still finds time to ride her bike with her husband and family as she firmly believes in not letting passions die. She found her background as an endurance athlete hugely beneficial in triathlons, which are more flexible with her busy life.