Santa Clara native Eleanor Phillips just turned nine-years old this past Tuesday, but she is already a World Championship Qualifying BMX racer. While she’s too young to be familiar with the famous Top Gun scene, she certainly shares Maverick’s need for speed.
“The first race I ever did was at Santa Clara PAL and I think I told my mom and dad on the first day that I wanted to go up on the gate hill,” recalled Eleanor. “And after I went up on the gate hill, I said, ‘I wanna race!’”
Santa Clara PAL is the Santa Clara Police Activities League (SCPAL), which organizes various sporting leagues–including BMX–for youth ages 5-18. Eleanor got her start at PAL, but she has since competed in National tournaments all over the country.
While Eleanor qualified for the recent World Championship races in South Carolina, her parents Gary Phillips and Kelly Price decided not to have her attend based off feedback from other BMX parents. Despite not attending that tournament, Eleanor is already a 3X US-Champion, and is ranked seventh nationally for her age group. All of this success and Eleanor is still just a third grader at Sutter Elementary.
“She got off her training wheels when she was like three, and so I built her a race bike. She was riding it just around the neighborhood and then that’s when we went over to [Santa Clara] PAL,” noted Mr. Phillips. “I told her she could just ride the small part, the rhythm section, the smaller hills where you drop in. After about three or four times, she was like ‘I wanna go to the big hill’ and we’re like ‘no, not today’ and she’s like ‘no, I wanna go, I wanna go!’, so we take her, she goes up, she goes down twice and she’s like ‘I wanna race!’”
In many ways, Eleanor is not like any other nine-year-old. She has her own private coach, Rasheen Hicks, whom she trains with up in Napa every Saturday.
“He actually has a lot of good strategies for getting out of the gate,” responded Eleanor about her coach.
Nine-years-old and first thing that comes out of her mouth when asked about her coach is starting strategies out of the gate? Talk about wise beyond her years.
In other ways though, Eleanor is just like any other kid her age. She enjoys making friends and jumping around on the trampoline in her backyard.
“She likes being on a team, traveling to different places. As long as the hotel has a pool,” chuckled Mr. Phillips.
While the family enjoys taking her to the different races, pretty much all of the travel is out of pocket. Eleanor is part of the 510 Bay Area BMXers, and her team will cover the $50-100 race fee at National races, but all of the organizing and trips fall on her parents. Not to mention, the fear of seeing their young daughter potentially crash at a high rate of speed.
“She’s loved it from the very beginning, but I was scared out of my mind to be honest with you,” admitted Price. “[The falls] are hard to watch. “I can’t remember how old she was, but at one point, she was like, ‘Mom! Mom! When I fall, don’t make that noise!’ “It’s like impossible not to [gasp], when you see your daughter supermanning out like that.”
While Mr. Phillips also grew up doing BMX, he says Eleanor has already surpassed him.
“Within the first year after she turned five, there were the Reno Nationals. We went and she did really well–second out of about 50 kids. Once she was out with the big crowds and all the lights, she was mesmerized.”
The next National race in which Eleanor will compete is June 23-25 in Charlotte, North Carolina.