For many, flying downhill on a bicycle while dodging rocks, navigating roots and jumping over obstacles sounds like an intimidating experience. For Juanita High School Senior Emma Artz, it is a challenge under which she thrives.
Artz began downhill mountain bike racing a few years ago when she joined the all-girls Sweetlines JR Racing Team based out of Issaquah and coached by Kat Sweet. This is where she “fell in love” with the sport and began to challenge herself with increasingly difficult courses.
She began to compete in races, and would do increasingly well in her placings.
She developed an affinity for “technical riding,” traversing over jagged roots and rocks.
“I have come to love it,” she said. “Because I once found it as a fear.”
In July, 2021, Artz raced against some of the best girls in the country during the USA Cycling Nationals in Winter Park, Colorado. She took second place in the nation, earning herself an invitation to represent the USA at the UCI World Championships in Val Di Sole, Italy.
Artz said the Val Di Sole downhill course is renowned as one of the most difficult and technical courses in the world, having a steep descent and many obstacles. It would be a huge challenge and a huge opportunity.
The course included obstacles such as a 50 foot gap that Artz would have to jump over, but she said the community of bikers there to compete were encouraging and supportive, “uplifting” her to rise to the challenge.
She placed 13th in the world during that race. Then she later competed in a World Cup competition in which she placed 5th.
“I am extremely proud of where I am right now,” said Artz. “To know the work I put in has come out.”
One of her proudest achievements was having the opportunity to represent the USA as one of the best downhill mountain bikers in the world.
“Just to be able to say that,” she emphasized.
She said her passion for the sport is rooted in the ever-changing challenges it presents. Every course is different, with different obstacles. Even the weather could change how a rider approaches a course from one run to the next.
Artz credited Sweetlines as a large part of how she was able to build this passion and said the organization has done the same for many young girls in the Pacific Northwest.