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Meghan Matthews hopes to pedal her way to berth on Olympic team
Manteca BMX standout Meghan Matthews recently returned from a trip to Denmark where she finished fourth out of the Top 44 riders in the world in her class further cementing her status as a force in the sport. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL

Meghan Matthews budgets her time like any 18-year-old high school graduate.

She’s taking classes at Delta College with plans on fulfilling her general education requirements before transferring to a four-year school. She likes to hang out with her friends. She’s feeling out the world and trying to find her place in it.

And she’s also spending an awful lot of time on her bike.

Matthews – a BMX phenom who has been riding for the last 11-years – is currently training with the hopes of securing a spot on the 2012 United States Olympic BMX team that will compete in London. She just returned from a trip to Copenhagen, Denmark – the third international trip she’s taken to compete – where she finished fourth out of the Top 44 riders in the world in her class.

With the Spreckels Park BMX Track in her backyard, Matthews has a place that she can go to put in the time she knows will be needed to take her riding career to the next level – representing the United States of America as an Olympic athlete.

“It’s something that I’ve never done before so it’s hard for me to even think about what it would be like to do something like that,” Matthews said. “That’s really what I’m working towards, but thinking about it beyond that is just crazy. That would be so awesome.”

In her recent trip to Denmark to compete in the UCI World Championships Matthews competed for Team USA – something she considers an honor as well as a privilege. While she finished one place out of a medal, Matthews was pleased with beating the No. 1 ranked rider in the world last year in the heats, the qualifying races and the main event – giving her another feather to add to her cap.

“You look at something like that and you always say to yourself, ‘you could have done this or you could have done that a little bit better,’” Matthews said. “But after that race, I was so proud of myself. It’s exciting to compete at that level against the best riders in the world, and while I don’t like flying on planes to get there, being in other countries adds something to that experience.”

And to think that BMX was something that Matthews’ mother thought would go out the window the minute she turned 16 and started driving.

“It’s something that she’s stuck through, through the good times and the bad, and it’s something that I wasn’t sure was going to last with her,” said Robin Matthews. “We thought that once she learned how to drive she’d give up and start driving around with her friends and put the bike in the past. Now she’s giving up the weekends with her friends to race and compete – it’s completely opposite.

“And it’s kind of surreal to think that your child has a chance to make the Olympic team in any sport. We’re very proud of what she’s done and where she’s going.”

Matthews has been a longtime member of Jon Anderson’s Icee-Anderson’s-209 Racing Team, but says she’s flirting with the possibility of turning professional next year. She has already flirted with the Olympic life once before four years ago when she was invited to the Olympic Training Center for a showcase – where she got the opportunity to ride “The Big Hill.”

The three-story drop from the starting gate was more than startling for the young upstart, but it’s something that she’s dedicated to getting back to.

For the time being she’s going to focus on staying in shape, making the most of her time on the track and preparing herself for the road ahead – wherever that may lead.

“It’s just a sport that I love being a part of and I love around,” Matthews said. “I love the camaraderie with the riders and the families that come out here to support their kids. I can see myself at some point maybe taking a break to start a family, but I’ll definitely make my way back to the track. This is what I love.”