Sports Briefs: Vails coming to Evergreen H.S.

February is Black History Month and a time to celebrate diversity in bicycling. Cascade Bicycle Club Education Foundation's Major Taylor Project and the Rainier Riders are pleased to host a special evening with USA Cycling modern-day legend, Nelson Vails, on Friday, Feb. 22.

Vails was the youngest of 10 children growing up in the Harlem projects who triumphed over almost insurmountable odds to become the first African-American to win an Olympic medal in bicycling.

Growing up, Vails started racing in Central Park at a young age. He also worked as a New York City bicycle messenger to support his family, trained in Central Park after work, and raced locally on weekends. Nicknamed "The Cheetah", Nelson Vails rode furiously while working, training and racing.

In 1981 he earned a spot on the U.S. national team and won a gold medal in the 1983 Pan-American games in Venezuela. The following year he represented the U.S. at the 1984 summer Olympics in Los Angeles where he won the silver medal in the individual 1000 meter Match Sprints, becoming the first African-American to earn an Olympic medal in bicycling. Watch a video of him in action:

“Nobody had more talent, charisma and just plain old class than Nelson Vails,” remembers Joe Platzner, a Cascade Bicycle Club Board member who idolized Nelson Vails growing up track racing on the East Coast. “Nelson was a consummate showman. You never knew what he would do for fun, but you could count on it. It wasn't all goofing around; Nelson could switch to ‘business time’ with the best of them and race his heart out.”

Vails continued to race professionally until 1995, and was inducted in the U.S. Bicycle Hall of Fame in 2009.

Ticket sale proceeds of the evening with Nelson Vails will benefit Cascade Bicycle Club Education Foundation’s Major Taylor Project, a year-round youth development program focused on creating access and opportunities for youth in diverse and underserved communities. Produced by the Cascade Bicycle Club Education Foundation, the project promotes cycling as a form of exercise, recreation and transportation while integrating the importance of leadership, community activism, bicycle maintenance, safety and working toward individual goals.

Major Taylor Clubs are currently in Global Connections High School in SeaTac, The YES Foundation of White Center with Evergreen High School, Sand Point Transitional Housing in Seattle, Chief Sealth High School in Seattle and Union Gospel Mission / Seattle Urban Academy.

“Nelson Vails is a great example of where a bike can take you, and that’s what Major Taylor is very much about -- new experiences and adventures because of the bike,” said Ed Ewing, Major Taylor Project Manager. “For several of our Major Taylor students, the bike is allowing them to explore their world for the first time. They’re exploring and learning new things about their community.”

Come meet Nelson Vails on Friday, Feb. 22 at 7 p.m. at REI Seattle. Tickets are available in advance through Brown Paper Tickets. Ticket prices are $10 for members, $12 for gene

Four JFK seniors sign on

Four Kennedy Catholic High School seniors last week celebrated as they signed their letters of intent. Cole Madison is going to Washington State University to play football for the Cougars, Thane Maudslien to the University of Arizona to swim for the Wildcats, Desmoun Thompson to Portland State University to play football for the Vikings, and Lilah Hudson to the University of Alaska – Fairbanks to play volleyball for the Nanooks. John F. Kennedy Catholic High School is located at 140 South 140th Street in Burien. Questions regarding our programs can be answered by calling the school office at 206.246.0500. Visit us on the web at

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