A small pink trophy stands out like a sore thumb on Emily Mundahl's bedroom dresser. At least a dozen large shiny trophies surround it, representing the Bismarck resident's years of hard work and dedication to a male-dominated sport.
Mundahl is a BMX racer currently leading the national points in the 21 to 30 womens cruiser class. She's preparing to race in the Grand Nationals next month.
"The pink, third place trophy was the very first trophy I ever won. It's still one of my favorites," Mundahl said. "I took it to school and showed it to all of my friends. It sits on top of my dresser, next to all of my big trophies."
Mundahl has raced BMX since she was 5 years old.
“My brother, Nathan, raced BMX until he was 12 or 13. Growing up, I wanted to do everything he did," Mundahl said. "Once I could ride a bike without training wheels, my parents let me ride on the track. I fell in love with it.
“I remember Nathan getting trophies and I always wanted to get more trophies than he did," she said. "That was my only goal in BMX when I started ... getting more trophies than Nathan.”
BMX racing is a type of off-road bicycle racing, derived from motocross. Racers compete in a 45-second sprint on single-lap race tracks. The track usually consists of a starting gate for up to eight racers, a groomed, serpentine dirt race course made of various jumps and berms and a finish line.
“It’s a really good family sport," Mundahl said. "There are categories for younger people just starting out all the way up to older people who have been racing forever.
“You can meet a whole bunch of different people, travel around the country and make a bunch of great friendships," she said.
Mundahl has competed on the district, regional, state and national level. Last year, she won the Race of Champions and took fifth place in national points for her cruiser class.
Her favorite experience, thus far, was winning the Race of Champions, she said.
“My whole team was lined up on the sidelines, down the final straight away. I came through and heard them all cheering for me and they were really excited," Mundahl said. "I remember seeing my dad at the end, where they give you your trophy and plate, and he was super excited for me."
Then she saw her mom - who was racing the same day - and the excitement and celebration continued.
"My mom was really happy I won," Mundahl said. "She did really good, too, placing second in her race. She was just more excited that I won than anything.”
Mundahl said her parents, Steve and Carrie, are very supportive and encouraging. When she started competing on the national level in 2011, they made the commitment to travel along with her.
Just about every other weekend during the winter months, the family treks to Isanti, Minn. to practice, race and have fun on an indoor track.
“I really enjoy the indoor stuff. It’s kind of tighter racing," Mundahl said. "It’s neat to have the crowd all together.”
Even though racing runs in the family - Carrie Mundahl races BMX and previously raced stock cars - it's not to say her parents don't worry.
“They get a little nervous when I crash and they always come and check on me," Mundahl said, noting she's had her fair share of bumps, bruises, concussions and broken bones.
Brother Nathan is supportive too.
"I think he’s pretty proud that he got me into it, and that I’ve excelled at it," Mundahl said. “He tries to beat me, but it doesn’t always work out so good.”
People are often shocked to hear that the self-described quiet and shy Mundahl not only races BMX, but mountain bikes and stock cars too. And, she's her own mechanic.
“I think it surprises people when I tell them I race BMX and drive stock cars," Mundahl said. "It just kind of blows them away."
"(Racing) is not something you always hear about. It’s not your main sport like soccer or baseball ... it's something kind of different," she said. "People are always interested and want to learn more."
When she was younger and just starting out in the sport, Mundahl said she looked up to the older girls dominating on the track.
"Try it out and don’t get discouraged right away," Mundahl said, offering advice to novice female racers. "Remember, you have a place there. Try to get more girls involved and stick together."
Mundahl is a senior at the University of Mary, majoring in exercise science. She is employed by Larson's Cyclery and works as a personal trainer at the YMCA.
“Emily is a jack-of-all-trades. She’s really good at everything she does. She’s a great mechanic and can do everything here at the shop, which is really neat," said Lance Larson, owner of Larson's Cyclery.
"Reliable" is the one word Larson would use to describe Mundahl.
“It’s really kind of neat because she’s at a level where a lot of boys would like to be, but can’t achieve it," he said. "She's super focused. Her focus to be at that level is great. Emily’s driven and always tries to do her best. She's just a super person."