Growing up, plenty of young athletes have dreams of mastering their sport, eventually being able to earn a college scholarship or even be able to turn it into something.
MacArthur senior Kye Cordes has already been able to cross those accomplishments off his list, all before graduating high school. But it’s not in a sport most think of when college scholarships come up.
Cordes grew up riding bicycles, but it wasn’t until he was 13 that he actually went mountain biking, riding the trails at Medicine Park with his father Steven. That first ride piqued his interest and he soon began making weekly trips north on OK 49 to hit the trails and to partake in “team rides” with fellow cyclists out there. It was there that he met Corey White, director of the Oklahoma Mountain Bike Series. White encouraged Cordes to join the race team, which he did at 14.
Initially, Kye would be in the back of the pack during team rides, but continued to get better each week. But even as he continued to progress and participate in races, the thought of it being more than a fun hobby hardly entered his parents’ minds.
“My husband would come home and say, ‘You know, he’s getting pretty good,’ and I would joke, ‘It’s not like he’s going to get a mountain bike scholarship,’” Angela Cordes, Kye’s mother, said. “Truly, I had no idea.”
But Kye had seen cyclists in college kits at races before. And before long, he began to make it his goal to cycle at the collegiate level. Having gone on family trips to Durango, Colorado, growing up, Kye was enamored with the idea of not only getting to live in such a neat community, but also have plenty of prime mountain biking terrain.
“Everyone in the town supports the college and the racing,” Cordes said. “There’s cyclists everywhere. It’s really nice.”
So when Fort Lewis College in Durango reached out, it was an easy decision. In February, he signed a letter of intent to join the Skyhawks cycling team.
Cordes competes in what is called cyclocross, a type of bike racing that mostly focuses on off-road terrain. Those races typically last an hour or two. Meanwhile, Cordes also competes in cross country races, which can last 3-4 hours.
And even though cyclocross is growing in popularity (the pending 2020 Tokyo Olympics would be the second to feature cyclocross), there are still misconceptions about what Cordes does.
“Everyone always mentions Lance Armstrong, because that’s like the only cyclist people know,” he said.
He’s already been making his mark in the cyclocross world, becoming a mainstay in the national junior rankings and joining sponsored team Orange Seal Off-Road in 2019.
Cordes aims to continue biking as long as he can, hoping to emulate someone like Durango resident Ned Overend, a former world champion cyclist and so-called “Godfather of cross-country mountain biking” who, at age 64, still bikes — and still wins.
While his family might not be able to make every college meet (most of which will be in Colorado), they will go to plenty of other races he competes in. They have been a constant for him over the past five years.
“They’ve been everything, they’re always there for me and took me to every race,” Cordes said. “I wouldn’t be here without them.