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|| News Item: Posted 2008-04-29

Winning Moments: Best Student Sports Photo: 'Crash'
'It was luck, skill and preparation. But mostly luck.'

By Ashley Page Wilkerson

Photo by Ashley Page Wilkerson

Photo by Ashley Page Wilkerson

Indiana University senior Matt Beaulieu of Phi Sigma Kappa (from left) loses control on turn one, as other competitors attempt to avoid the crash during the 2007 Men's Little 500 Bike Race at Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind.
(Editors Note: We asked those awarded 1st place in the Sports Shooter Newsletter Annual Contest to write a short piece to give us a behind-the-scenes look at what went into their winning entry. To see all of the winners in this years contest, check this link:

The sun beat down on my forehead because I stupidly don't own a baseball cap. As a female, I am fortunate enough not to sweat; I glisten. And I was glistening a lot that day. I had spent most the Saturday morning trying to quickly navigate around drunken college students on congested sidewalks, only to compete with them again for rail space to view the bike riders coming around the turn.

At Indiana University in Bloomington, the Little 500 bike race is a big deal. It's a cherished tradition that began in 1951 and raises money for scholarships by imitating the Indianapolis 500.

Logistically, the Men's Little 500 consists of 33 teams, with four riders each, racing 200 laps around a 1/4-mile cinder track.

Students from fraternities, dorms, and independent groups train year round for a chance to qualify in the April race.

Among the clamor of teams readying, fans cheering, and officials giving everyone a difficult time, the media floods into the event, ranging from the local television stations and newspapers to ESPN and Sports Illustrated. I felt like a little fish swimming with the big ones, toting my Canon 20D with it's new vertical grip which oddly make me feel like a short guy wearing cowboy boots in hopes of looking taller. It was my second time shooting the Little 500 and I felt more confident about what to expect and how to pace myself throughout the day. Sports photography was a new challenge for me since I had only begun shooting sports in the fall semester of 2006.

Out of the 200 laps that day, I was fortunate enough to be standing in the right place at the right time to get this shot of the day's worst bike crash. I could have been taking a sip of water, walking elsewhere, or using a different lens, but I wasn't. When the moment did unfold I was ready for it and out of the four frames on my camera, the second one was just right. It was luck, skill and preparation. But mostly luck.

Luck didn't just work in my favor; these four guys took a rough tumble but faced no serious injuries. From blood-slick scrapes muddied with cinder to broken collarbones pushing through skin in previous races, Indiana University's Little 500 can dish out a beating in the blink of an eye.

Maybe moments like this are why Lance Armstrong said, "I've attended Super Bowls, World Series and the Monaco Grand Prix, but the coolest event I've ever attended was the Little 500."

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