Charlie Mooney never thought he could receive a scholarship for cycling. However, when he found out he could, it was all downhill from there.
Charlie Mooney, of Martinez, who graduated from Lakeside High School in the spring, has been awarded a partial scholarship to continue cycling competitively at Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia, Ky. He began mountain biking only two years ago.
Mooney, a 2004 Lakeside graduate, found a place where he could get a scholarship and continue his passion for mountain biking.
The cycling team at Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia, Ky., provided Mooney with a partial scholarship to compete in downhill racing events.
"I thought it was the coolest thing in the world that I could get a scholarship for cycling," Mooney said. "To get into school for doing something you love is great."
Earning a cycling scholarship was remarkable, considering Mooney had started the sport only two years before.
He began cycling competitively in summer 2002, when he competed in the Georgia Games in Augusta after seeing a commercial on television.
He thought it would be a fun way to stay in shape for baseball.
"It looked like a lot of fun," he said. "But the first time I raced, I was terrified. It was the scariest thing I've ever done in my life."
It was the thrill that grabbed him, and Mooney gave up baseball to concentrate on cycling.
"You are on the edge the whole time," he says. "The adrenaline is pumping and the speed is exhilarating. It is like jumping out of an airplane every day."
The sport might be exciting, but it is also dangerous.
Mooney has suffered torn ligaments in his shoulder and a dislocated thumb but has escaped major injuries because of the safety equipment riders wear.
"We fall all the time, so the safety gear is very important," he said.
Soon after giving up baseball, Mooney began competing in events across the Southeast, in the Maxxis Series and the Mid-Atlantic Downhill Racing Association.
He also belongs to the National Off Road Biking Association.
In two short years, Mooney has become a star in his sport, which consists of downhill racing and dual slaloms. He is ranked in the top 50 nationally in the Expert Men's Division, age 19-24, downhill.
Mooney's career so far peaked late last month when he won the national title in the dual slalom at the National Collegiate Cycling Association Mountain Bike Championships in Pennsylvania.
Mooney says he would like to race internationally for a bike manufacturer after he graduates from college.
"Cycling has taken me a long way," he said. "I hope it can take me a lot further."
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