With their parents serving as the sleep-deprived support crew, eight Folsom teenagers finished fifth out of 18 teams in the grueling 3,000 mile Race Across America.
The team, Believe and Achieve, raced in relay fashion, finishing in 6 days, 6 hours and 31 minutes. All of the other teams in the race were composed of adults, including the Sacramento Police Department's eight-member team, which finished sixth.
The teenage team was the dream of Connor Ellison, a 14-year-old Folsom cyclist who has battled a rare and debilitating kidney disease. His sister, Savannah, 16, also rode on the team.
The other team members are Adam Sevy, 17; Troy Knox, 16; Colin Cook, 16; twins Scot and Alex Benton, both 17; and Jasper Hodgson, 14. Michael Hahn, 13, broke his arm on a training ride and was unable to compete.
"The team did awesome," said Jared Ellison, Connor and Savannah's father, who served as coach. "Everything was just smooth. I'm thrilled the juniors were so prepared in all the ways I had hoped."
The team used a novel strategy over the tallest mountain pass in Colorado, relying on short sprints of only 200 to 300 yards, one after another. In Kansas, the riders encountered sustained winds of 45 mph that made staying upright a challenge.
Then there was the sleep deprivation, which hit the parents the hardest. They relied on little more than two hours sleep a day.
"It feels horrible. It was brutal," Jared Ellison said. "It literally takes a good week to catch up."
In addition to racing, Team Believe and Achieve raised money and awareness for organ donation.
The eight-member team category began racing in Oceanside just outside San Diego on June 16. The teens crossed the finish line around dusk on June 22. Their equipment is still en route back to Folsom, thanks to free shipping services donated by Trinity Transport.