By Cody Shepard, The Enterprise
EASTON, Mass. --- When most people hear an athlete was awarded a scholarship, their minds automatically assume it must be for basketball or football.
But Erin Sferrazza just shattered everything you thought about Div. 1 athletic scholarships – because she’s been awarded a cycling scholarship.
In the fall, Sferrazza will attend Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, North Carolina. And while she will be a nursing student, she may end up better known around campus for her mountain biking skills.
Some people tell the Oliver Ames High School senior that they’ve never heard of a cycling scholarships – and others have questioned whether she is majoring in cycling.
“The last type of reaction I get is where people just laugh at me because they think I am joking around with them when I say I am going Division 1 for cycling,” Sferrazza, 18, told The Enterprise.
Sferrazza started mountain biking when she received her first mountain bicycle for Easter when she was 7 years old. Her racing career began a few years after when she competed with her father while riding a tandem bicycle.
“I love mountain biking because it is a way to explore places that I would never see otherwise,” she said. “Mountain biking never gets boring because there is always another obstacle that is waiting to be conquered, whether it be a long rock garden or a ledge drop off.”
Sferrazza currently rides five or six days per week to get prepared for college, where she will compete in mountain biking in the fall, cyclo-cross racing in the winter and road cycling in the spring.
The Easton high school senior was awarded the scholarship in November. It begins in fall of this year and ends in spring 2017, but is renewable for four years as long as academic, social and athletic requirements are met.
Sferrazza has won several awards in racing. Through the Eastern Fat Tire Association, she won the New England tandem championship in 2010 and 2011. And from 2012 to 2015, she has earned New England championships in categories one, two and three.
Through USA Cycling, Sferrazza won state championships in category two in 2012 through 2014. In 2015, she was a champion in the Kenda Cup East Series.
Tim Hall, the coach of cycling at Lees-McRae College, highlighted Sferrazza’s accomplishments in a press release after she was awarded the scholarship.
“She will add strength and depth to our mountain bike team next fall. Erin has steadily progressed in the sport at her home in Massachusetts, and I know she’s eager for the new challenge of competing in college,” Hall said. “She has several volunteer achievements along with being an outstanding student intending to go into our new May School of Nursing. We look forward to helping her develop throughout her collegiate career here at Lees-McRae.”
While she now enjoys biking down winding trails on the side of hills, it was the first time she went down a hill, fell off her bike and hit a tree that was most life changing.
“In my 18 years I have learned many lessons, but none of them have changed my life as much as that day in the woods when I learned from my failure to start believing in myself,” Sferrazza wrote in her college essay. “Now, when I line up at the start of a mountain bike race as an expert, next to a bunch of women twice my age, I think back to that moment shared in the woods with my dad, and say to myself, ‘You Can Do This Erin.’”