Students riding a long route to achievement Teens, mentors on bike tour of Md.

July 25, 1996|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

Joseph Howard awoke at 5 a.m. yesterday knowing this was the day he has trained for since April -- the day he would bicycle 100 miles.

The trip, an optional loop on the third day of the First National Bank Cycle Across Maryland, would take the 15-year-old Severn resident from the camp ground at Francis Scott Key High School in Union Bridge to Gettysburg, Pa., then to Silver Spring in Montgomery County.

"I know I can do it," Joseph, a 10th grader at Meade Senior High School in Odenton, said shortly before he set off with two fellow students and their mentor. Another mentor would later join them.

He is one of 50 students identified as at risk of dropping out of high school who are riding in the tour as part of CAM Teen Challenge. The students, from Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Harford, Cecil and Montgomery counties, and their volunteer mentors have been training for the trip every weekend since April.

The students who complete the tour, nearly 345 miles without the extra 36 miles of yesterday's so-called century ride, will go home with the new TREK 700 bicycles they are using this week. The county groups held fund-raisers and sought donations to pay for half of the CAM registration fee and to pay for the $200 bicycles, provided at cost by the manufacturer.

Joseph did not have to try the longer ride to earn his bicycle, but he wanted to be able to wear the patch awarded those who do to show his mother.

"When I first started [training] I wanted to try it," he said. "They said the hills were going to be like 5,000 feet in elevation. I was thinking about it, but then, I said, 'I can do it.' "

But most students were content to ride the 64 miles in the normal route yesterday.

Marion Anderson just wanted to cross the finish line at Harford Community College Saturday and take home her bicycle.

"Some people can just go into a department store and buy their bike for $99, but to know that you earned it, you went through hills, once you cross the finish line, you know that you did it," Marion, 14, said before she set off yesterday.

Anderson and her tent mate Shuntea Langley, 16, count on each other for strength to keep going each day, Langley said.

"Every time I wake up, the first thing that hurts are my legs," Langley said.

But she won't quit. "Marion said she won't do it without me, so I don't want her to not do it because of me."

That's the kind of teamwork mentor Reginald Owens of Pikesville likes to see.

"They have really come a long way," the Department of Defense worker said as he waited in line for breakfast. "I think it's a growing stage for a lot of them, learning to depend on each other as far as teamwork. In the beginning it was every man for themselves."

Working as a team was part of the strategy for the century ride worked out by mentor Richard Fehle, 24, of New Windsor in Carroll County.

"We use a pacing system," said Fehle, also a Department of Defense worker. "We are all responsible for each other. We are not going to go too far apart."

For mentor David Ross, 67, of Gambrills, teamwork meant pushing himself to ride faster than usual to keep up with his young charge for the day, James Dezso.

Ross said James' need for speed had him riding at a pace of more than nine miles per hour instead of his usual seven or eight miles per hour.

The two rolled into Silver Spring about 4: 30 p.m. and soon were enjoying a dinner of burritos, rice, and cherry cobbler in the cafeteria of Springbrook High School.

"If he weren't out there in front of me, it would have been very difficult for me to do the 64 miles today," Ross said.

James, who will be a 10th grader at Meade, found the day physically tiring.

"But it feels good mentally because now you feel since you could do half of it, you can finish the other half," he said.

Pub Date: 7/25/96

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