Phs Frosh Pedaling For Olympic Spot

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Daniel Conley is quietly pedaling his way to what someday could lead to a career in professional cycling and possibly Olympic glory.

The 14-year-old Payson High School freshman took a giant step toward attaining that goal by earning an invitation to a USA Cycling Regional Mountain Bike development camp to be held June 15 to 20 at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.

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Daniel Conley

Conley qualified for the camp by virtue of his first-place standing in the Mountain Bike Association of Arizona 18-years-and-under Men's Sport Division.

"I'm looking forward to the training center," Conley said. "I hope to do well enough to be invited to a later training camp," also in Colorado, Springs.

The regional development camp will provide Conley and the other qualifiers a development opportunity few other cyclists have the privilege of enjoying.

During the six days of the camp, he will practice his cycling skills while learning more about nutrition, bike mechanics and training. He will also take part in standardized endurance-based field testing and will have the opportunity to meet some of the top performing athletes who will be a part of the USA Cycling certified staff.

Among those certain Conley will do well at the camp is fellow cyclist Scott Davidson, a Rim Country Middle School teacher.

"I know he will be one of the best there, he does some amazing things," he said.

The MBAA trail

In the teen's most recent mountain bike outing, April 19 at the Prescott Punisher, he won by besting his nearest opponent by about three minutes.

In race No. 3 of the MBAA circuit, the Estrella Hodgepodge Hustle held March 1 near Phoenix, he was first in 1:46.30.

At the White Tank Whirlwind held Feb. 9, he was second in 1:44.20.

His season-long nemesis, Kallan Creager, edged the PHS frosh by about two minutes.

The MBAA series opened Jan. 19 at the McDowell Mountain Meltdown where Conley was first, whipping Creager by about 14 seconds.

With one race remaining in the series, a championship finale on May 17, Conley is hoping to hold on in the point standings and win his second successive Arizona mountain bike title.

Last season, while racing in the 13-14-years beginner class, he finished first after winning gold medals at The Estrella Especial, Prescott Punisher, Payson Pounder, White Tanks Whirlwind and the McDowell event.

He also took firsts at the Copper Valley Stage race and the NOVA nationals.

In road racing last summer, he was first in stage, circuit and criterium events at the Summit Center Classic.

Also at the 2007 USA Cycling National Mountain Bike Championships at Mount Snow, Vt. he finished third in his first appearance on the national stage, covering the 12-mile course in 1:41.55.31.

He has also won a platinum medal for riding under six hours in the 109-mile El Tour De Tucson event.

His accomplishments also include a first-place finish at the Copper Valley Stage race and the NOVA Nationals.

For Conley, a mountain bike is the preferred mode of transportation.

"It's my car and it's faster than walking and cheaper than driving," he said. "I live on my mountain bike."

As adept as Conley is on a bike, he's equally proficient in the classroom.

Since first grade he's been an honor roll student earning mostly "A" grades.

Until this year, that is.

"I got a B in Spanish," he said. "But that's OK. I'll try to bring it up."

His unique combination of academic excellence and cycling skills could lead to him someday becoming one of the rare few who excel on the professional circuit.

"It would be cool if I could make a living doing what I love to do," he said. "That's my goal."

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