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Kent State Graduate Student Takes on Race Across America

Posted Jun. 9, 2014
enter photo description
Kent State University exercise physiology graduate student
Sara Harper lifts her bike in celebration at the end of the
2012 Race Across America in Annapolis, Maryland. Harper
will compete in her third race this summer.

(Photo credit: Don Harper)

Kent State University graduate student Sara Harper will participate in the Race Across America this summer, the third time for the 24-year-old exercise physiology student.

Race Across America is a 24-hour-a-day, one-rider-at-a-time relay, 3,000-mile cycling adventure that spans across 12 states. Harper will be competing as an alternate to a four-person team of women who have never competed in the race, making her the team’s veteran. The racers rotate shifts of cycling, averaging six hours a day, for a total of seven to nine days.

“I started riding when I was 15, and I bought a road bike instead of a car when I turned 16,” says Harper. “I’ve been riding since then, and it has been a big influence in my life.”

Harper’s Race Across America team, Team PHenomenal Hope, cycles to benefit the Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA). Pulmonary hypertension is something that Harper is familiar with as she has severe asthma herself.

“My team and I are all very familiar with the disease,” she says. “I have many teammates who work in pulmonary research, specializing in pulmonary hypertension. It is really great that we can all come together for a cause.”

Being a part of Team PHenomenal Hope requires constant training, which Harper must balance with her education and personal life.

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Kent State University exercise physiology
graduate student Sara Harper prepares
for a team relay exchange in Utah.

(Photo credit: Kat Espino)

“I am a graduate assistant in exercise physiology, I have classes, I’m finishing a thesis and conducting research, all while training,” says Harper. “It is a lot of time management trying to get the rides in when I can.”

Harper says the craziness is worth it.

“It is just a really cool challenge,” she says. “It’s great to say that I can ride up 12,000 feet with a pulmonary disease, racing for those who have pulmonary hypertension.”

Harper says that Race Across America is a motivational tool for most aspects of her life.

“It’s a mental, emotional and physical challenge, and if I think if I can do this, I can do anything,” Harper says. “I am also able to inspire others along the way that have their own obstacles to face, such as pulmonary hypertension.”

The Race Across America team event begins on June 14 in Oceanside, California, and ends in Annapolis, Maryland.

For more information about Harper and Team PHenomenal Hope, visit http://teamphenomenalhope.org/