At just 13 years old, Maricopa native Kallie Stewart paved her way to a spot in the mountain biking history books. She clinched a handful of state titles and a national championship this year.
After training locally for two years, the whole Stewart family followed their young protégé’s dreams eastward.
“We sold our house in Maricopa last year,” said Matt Stewart, Kallie’s father. “We bought a piece of property in Bentonville, Ark., which is a big mountain bike community.”
Although Kallie Stewart is already well seasoned, she had to adapt to a new terrain. The dry desert trails were replaced with rain-soaked “slime,” she said, bringing new challenges.
“I do a lot of muddy races recently,” Kallie Stewart said. “I have to really focus and be careful not to run off the trails.”
Mountain biking is hallmarked by its skinny off-road paths lined with obstacles like berms, ladder bridges and rock gardens. Clusters of bikers navigate a natural playground of winding trails.
But Kallie Stewart has always seen the need for speed, she said.
“When I’m going down something steep, it’s easy to get out of control,” she said. “I’ve hit trees plenty of times.”
In preparation for her adrenaline-fueled races, Kallie Stewart practices downhill racing, speed training, leisurely runs and weightlifting to enhance her overall strength and performance.
“I mainly focus on speed,” she said, “getting down the hill the fastest.”
Each season, the young mountain biker competes in as many as 15 races with a few scattered affairs during the off-season.
“We try to find at least one race a month so we’re still in the flow of things,” Matt Stewart said, “so there’s no rust when we get back into the swing of things.”
Kallie Stewart’s next race is coming up Sept. 10 as she heads to Vermont with her family and trusty Rebel bike.
And as she already looks ahead to next year, Kallie Stewart is prepping for a new age bracket, competing for the first time against 14- and 15-year-olds.
“The girls are going to be really fast,” she said. “But my goal is to at least get podium — hopefully first.”
From healthy eating habits to her rigorous training regimen, Kallie Stewart said she keeps a positive mindset, reminding herself what she is capable of.
“I tell myself I can do it, and I probably can,” she said.