Mountain biking aids USF cross country runner

Despite the risk of injury, USF distance runner Michael Babinec extends his training through mountain biking. Babinec’s training paid off with a win at the USF invitational. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/GOUSFBULLS.COM

From soccer in his early years to cross country at USF, distance runner Michael Babinec has always enjoyed the thrill of competing, but there’s one sport in particular that gives him the rush he desires, while keeping form for cross country: mountain biking.

Babinec started playing soccer early on, but once in high school, his passion began to fizzle and a new one began.

“I didn’t have the passion for (soccer),” Babinec said. “I decided to switch over to running. It’s something I enjoyed. Playing midfield in soccer, I knew that I could run and had the ability, and after joining the team freshman year, I realized how much I enjoyed it.”

Babinec soon realized his potential with college looming. He decided if he began training even harder, he could do it at the next level. That landed him at USF.

“I didn’t really have a No. 1 pick,” he said. “I was just running as hard as I could to get the most offers, but I chose USF and I’m very happy that I’m here.”

Aside from what Babinec calls an “easy” run — a nine-mile trek — and other training in the weight room, he said he takes to any hill he can find to train at a different level.

“I love anything outdoors,” Babinec said. “I’m huge into mountain biking. I do that almost every weekend all over the state of Florida.”

Mountain biking isn’t just for training or recreation — it’s one more way the senior majoring in electrical engineering competes. 

“Last year I raced the mountain bike series, which is all over Florida,” Babinec said. “I went places like Tallahassee, Gainesville, Tampa and Ocala. Cycling is a huge passion of mine.”

Cycling also has been a way for Babinec to bond with his father.

“It’s something we’ve done for a really long time,” he said. “Now that I’m out of the house and away from him, I can enjoy (that bond) more than before.”

Baninec’s father, Mike, blew out his knee playing soccer in college and needed another sport to pick up, so he started mountain biking.

“I pretty much grew up mountain biking since I was 3 or 4 years old,” he said. “(My dad) has always been there for support.”

Endurance running has helped his endurance on the trails.

“It’s definitely taxing,” he said. “It’s nice to do something that’s not hard on your body. Running is a lot of pounding and it takes its toll, but pushing pedals around isn’t that hard.”

The biggest concern for Babinec when riding is injury.

“He’s had wrecks before,” coach Dana Reif said. “But it adds to his fitness level because it’s an endurance sport, as well. It’s one of those things where if we’re having a big meet coming up—like (this weekend’s) conference — I make sure he doesn’t have a race where he could hurt himself. 

“As long as he’s okay for our big meets, that’s fine with me”

USF travels to Greenville, North Carolina for the AAC Championship meet Saturday at 10 a.m.