The top rider in last year’s race is gone, meaning ITTs will be exciting from the very fact that there will be a new champion crowned.
Liz Lieberman stole the show in all regards last year for Kappa Alpha Theta, winning ITTs, MNO and then, of course, the race itself.
She’s graduated. Who will rise to the top this year?
The easy answer would be to say Phoenix’s Tabitha Sherwood, who has finished second in ITTs the previous two years. Here’s a look at all the top returning riders in the women’s field.
Tabitha Sherwood, Phoenix
Last year’s ITT finish: 2
Previous ITT finishes: 2 (2014), 15 (2013)
Sherwood is the obvious favorite. She’s poised to be arguably the most dominant rider in the Little 500 field, regardless of gender. Sherwood helped push Phoenix to the No. 2 starting spot in this year’s race on Saturday, an early showcase of how dominant Sherwood could be. Lieberman beating her last year was a bit of an upset. It’s going to be tough to top her this year.
Evelyn Malcomb, Kappa Alpha Theta
Last year’s ITT finish: 4
Previous ITT finishes: None
Though Theta loses its sprinter and overall best rider from last year in Lieberman, the cupboard is certainly not bare. Malcomb made a huge impact last year and was a strong No. 2 rider behind Lieberman. Theta blew away all the other teams at Qualifications, and Malcomb was a big part of that. If we’ve learned one thing these past couple years, it’s to never count out Theta.
Kristen Bignal, Delta Gamma
Last year’s ITT finish: 5
Previous ITT finishes: 51 (2014)
Bignal made a huge jump last year, rising to the race’s elite riders. She helped her team to the No. 3 qualifying position on Saturday, pushing DG to one of the four teams that posted a Quals time under 2:41. The DG team is most definitely back as a top contender, and that’s thanks in large part to Bignal, who leads a very talented trio of experienced riders at DG. If Bignal is able to make another huge improvement like she was last year, she may have the potential to challenge Sherwood.
Megan Huibregtse, Ski
Last year’s ITT finish: 6
Previous ITT finishes: 36 (2014)
Huibregtse is fiercely devoted to Little 500, and cycling in general. She fell in love with the sport when she came to IU as a freshman and joined the then-all rookie team Ski Club Cycling. Through the course of that first spring, she became the team’s best rider despite being a freshman. She has continued to push and push, and is now among the top 5 individual riders in the field. Huibregtse rode both the fly and final lap for Ski at Quals on Saturday, helping the team to its third consecutive top-10 start. Her competitive spirit will push her to give everything she has to try to win ITTs. She was also just .026 seconds behind Sherwood in the ThrowDown Thursday competition last week.
Libby Momper, Kappa Delta
Last year’s ITT finish: 7
Previous ITT finishes: 49 (2014), 58 (2013)
Momper is another rider who took a big leap forward last year. The senior has raced in Little 500 since her freshman year, with this being her fourth and final race. It wasn’t until last year, however, when she was looked at as one of the top tier riders in the field. She’ll use her experience and knowledge of the track to pull a top time.
Others to watch: Abby Rogers (Kappa Alpha Theta, 8th in last year’s ITTs), Fallon Lilly (9th in last year’s ITTs), Sarah Rivich (Delta Gamma, 10th in last year’s ITTs), Katie Ziegler (Delta Gamma, 12th in last year’s ITTs), Eliza Heath (Teter, 14th in last year’s ITTs), Michaela Ranft (Alpha Omicron Pi, 15th in last year’s ITTs), Brooke Hannon (CSF, 17th in last year’s ITTs), Alexandra Kolar (Alpha Chi Omega, 18th in last year’s ITTs), Julia Thomas (Teter, 19th in last year’s ITTs), Madeline Lambert (Kappa Alpha Theta, 23rd in last year’s ITTs).