Thirteen was the lucky number to kick off the “World’s Greatest College Weekend” on Friday, as Melanzana Cycling ran away from the field early after starting out in 13th place and held the lead to win their first-ever Little 500 with a time of 1:15:46.
The quartet of seniors Abby Teed, Grace Williams, Juli Torbik and junior Abby Green, all track runners in high school, used their endurance and experience on the running track to dominate the cycling track. Melanzana took the lead around the quarter point of the race, 25 laps, and never looked back, eventually finishing two laps ahead of second place and beyond for the team’s first-ever victory in the 34th running of the Women’s Little 500.
Melanzana played it safe during qualifications, but they gave everything they had Friday, calculating every move and exchange with precision before eventually coasting to victory.
Another 11 seconds was the difference between second and third, where Alpha Chi Omega and their raucous cheering section held off both defending champions Delta Gamma and Teter Cycling for the final podium spot. Delta Gamma was involved in an early crash about 15 laps into the race, which set them back, but made up significant ground on the leaders toward the final half of the race.
For the first time in three years, thousands of fans packed into Bill Armstrong Stadium to watch the race and cheer on their family and friends. The weather cooperated as well, as temperatures nearly reached the 80’s in Bloomington. Fans filled the grandstands on all sides of the stadium to watch the 100-lap race take place on the cinder track on the outskirts of Jerry Yeagley Field. The race started nearly 20 minutes ahead of schedule, and there was never a dull moment from start to finish.
In a relatively clean race that saw only one minor crash near the line in the early stages, Melanzana took advantage of the slow start and handed the bike over to senior Grace Williams, who extended their lead and kept pushing the team’s advantage. Williams won two of the main events in the Spring Cycling Series, and she used her sprint speed to get a comfortable lead before exchanging with captain Teed, who would ultimately cross the line for Melanzana.
From the playing of “Back Home Again In Indiana” to the red flag coming out after Melanzana completed an extra lap to let the victory sink in, many will remember this day for the experience rather than the result, given only a handful of riders competed as freshmen.
Melanzana will certainly remember this day for a long time, as tears of joy flowed out in celebration of the team’s accomplishment on its 10th year anniversary. Families and sorority members alike came onto the track to embrace the champions and walk with them during their victory lap.
As the winners collected their trophies, members of the team could be heard saying “are you shitting me?” as they hoisted the hardware, and the winning feeling finally kicked in after over 50 miles of biking.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated the day the 2022 Women’s Little 500 race occurred.