CCA learner is three-time national mountain bike champion
Commonwealth Charter Academy senior Veda Gerasimek is not your average teenage girl. Veda enjoys writing, traveling, playing her guitar, meeting new people — and riding through mounds of dirt tracks as a competitive mountain biker. She has earned three national titles in the sport and continues to compete across the country — all while attending high school.
Affectionately known to friends and family as “Darth Veda,” the Transfer, Mercer County, girl began racing when she was 10 and started competing locally by age 14. As a young rider, Veda learned how to race by traveling nearly an hour and a half from her small hometown to ride on Pittsburgh's Bud Harris Cycling Track, in addition to practicing riding through Bradys Run Park in Beaver County.
Her practice, hard work and commitment to the sport over the years have paid off.
Veda holds three national titles from USA Cycling, the official governing organization for competitive cycling in the U.S. She is a junior 2011 National Criterium champion, a 2013 National Super D champion and a 2013 Cross Country champion.
Because of her impressive skills as a competitive mountain bike rider, especially as a teenage girl competing in a male-dominated sport, Veda has secured sponsorship from DNA Cycling, which is difficult to earn.
Veda attended CCA from third through fifth grades but left to attend a traditional middle school. After she experienced difficulty receiving time off for weekend races, Veda and her family remembered the positive experience they had had at CCA and decided to re-enroll her during her ninth-grade year.
Veda and her mother, Melody Gerasimek, credit CCA’s supportive teachers, vast class offerings and flexibility in scheduling for her return to the school.
“As a parent, I can’t complain. She has all the classes she needs ... even more options,” Melody said.
As a competitive mountain biker, Veda trains five or six days a week for an average of three hours each day on her bike in addition to completing strength-training exercises.
The ability to complete lessons and coursework on the road is a major advantage of attending CCA, Veda said.
Melody described Veda as self-motivated. She said, despite the challenge of balancing school, training and traveling, Veda is an “on-track student” who often looks ahead to complete more time-consuming assignments before traveling.
During her junior year, Veda and her family embarked on a two-month “winter hiatus” road trip across the country to Arizona and Utah so she could train for her racing season. Stops included Arizona's Catalina State Park and Utah’s Snow Canyon State Park.
Throughout the trip, Veda documented her experiences on her website, theycallmedarthveda, which includes blog posts and photos from her training at the parks, meeting new families, completing homework assignments at the local coffee shop and capturing the parks’ scenic views.
As one of few teenage girls in competitive mountain biking, Veda hopes to inspire and be a role model for other young girls. She has published articles in Bike Magazine and Youth Cycle Sport UK, and she hopes to write a book detailing her most memorable experiences to inspire the younger generation of cyclists — especially girls.
“I try to be a positive role model by showing them that, even when you work really hard and your heart is in it, things don’t always go your way. You just have to keep it fun,” Veda said.
“My signature thing is to send small packages with a homemade bike chain bracelet to each kid I meet.”
Veda dreams of traveling to Europe for additional experience in the competitive environment, but she will also apply to colleges to pursue marketing to learn how to market herself as an athlete.