Senior Sarah Milton (back) consoles graduate student Kim May (front) during Friday’s memorial service. ORACLE PHOTO/SEAN REED
In its two years of existence, the USF Cycling team hadn’t received much attention until last week, when founder Joshua Kuck died Oct. 21 during an annual organized bike ride in Dade City called the “Hilly Hundred.”
Nearly one week later, Kuck’s teammates and friends mourned the loss of their co-captain Friday outside the Phyllis P. Marshall Center.
Kenneth Caswell, the chemistry professor who served as the faculty adviser for the cycling team, opened the memorial service with a brief eulogy. He talked about the first time he met Kuck. The 22-year-old came by Caswell’s office and asked him if he would sign a “piece of paper that would allow him to move forward with his vision,” Caswell said.
Caswell said that from the moment Kuck walked into his office seeking the approval that would make the club official, he saw a passionate student who was destined for great things.
“Every time this man came by my office, he would exhaust me,” Caswell said. “He would exhaust me with his accomplishments – accomplishments past and present – and his visions for the future.”
He said Kuck was always determined to establish a premiere cycling community from nothing. Kuck’s journey from Maine to Florida was not as important as the impact he left at USF during his four years on campus, he said.
“The joy in his eyes and the enthusiasm in his voice were unmistakable as the community began to take shape onto this incredible journey,” he said.
Caswell’s words of solace mirrored his eagerness to see Kuck’s creation thrive in his wake.
“The community must emulate Josh’s selflessness, appreciation for each other’s talents and well-intentions to further develop the community and further establish the founder’s vision and legacy,” he said.
Anthony Hildoer, a co-captain of the cycling team, said the team will dedicate everything they do this upcoming season to their founder.
“We plan to do anything we can to recognize him,” he said. “He made this team exist.” Hildoer was one of the few riders who did not attend the “Hilly Hundred,” the 15th annual organized ride presented by the Tampa Bay Freewheelers bicycling club. Hildoer was out of town when he heard about Kuck’s death. Even a week after his death, he said he is still very much surprised his friend is gone.
“It’s just so strange that (out) of all people it was Josh,” he said.
But while Hildoer said these bicycle accidents are never something cyclists expect when they suit up for races, in his opinion it was only a matter of time before an accident happened in Dade City.
Kuck was heading southbound on Clay Hill Road when, according to a Florida Highway Patrol news release, he ran a stop sign at the Blanton Road intersection. He was making a left turn onto Blanton Road when a Dodge Ram, driven by James T. Browning, 48, of Dade City, struck the back of his Specialized E-5 bicycle and killed him instantly.
Ruben Watson, president of Tampa Bay Freewheelers and coordinator for the “Hilly Hundred,” said even though Kuck’s death was unfortunate, no changes will be made to next year’s ride. A few signs may be put up around high-risk intersections, he said, but the ride that had gone 15 years without any accidents will continue with its usual routine.
Friday’s memorial was a somber one, but surprisingly the cyclists and teammates attending remained optimistic and positive. When asked about how his teammates responded to Kuck’s death, Hildoer said everyone had private moments of grief, but that Kuck will remain the team’s motivation.
“Everybody on the team is spiritual in their own way,” he said. “We’re all pretty sure we’ll see him again.”
Eric Smithers can be reached at (813) 974-6299 or email@example.com.