NISKAYUNA — Patrick Frank remembers the morning his dad was hit by a car in 2015.
When he went to the hospital and heard the list of his dad’s injuries — broken ribs, a shattered pelvis, two punctured lungs, a concussion and road rash — he thought he was going to lose him.
He didn’t. Bob Frank, 52, recovered in six months and went back to work.
But Bob, also Patrick’s coach on the Niskayuna Mountain Bike Team, said the result of his accident was unusual. Instead of Patrick shying away from biking, something that just landed his father in the hospital, he started to push even harder.
And on June 9 of this year, Patrick, now a 17-year-old graduating senior, won the varsity state championship for the New York National Interscholastic Cycling Association. He came in first place in all five of the required races and crushed his competition after years of finishing in the back of the pack.
Although Patrick’s journey is the result of determination and rigorous training, he didn’t just celebrate his own victory when he accepted his trophy at states. He used the moment to recognize two fellow riders who inspire him each race.
But it wasn’t easy for Patrick to earn that victory.
In junior high, Patrick was never the best biker on his team. Bob remembers his son being “nowhere near the podium.”
“He was just trying to finish the races,” Bob said.
Still, Patrick’s motivation intensified after his father’s accident, although he doesn’t know why. While at first he didn’t finish anywhere near the front of the races, he began to see himself improve. Patrick would practice seven hours a week during the off-season and started seriously putting in time on mountain biking.
During the first race of his sophomore year, he saw the results. He came in second place.
From there, Patrick won the sophomore state championship, and each year he continued to improve. His improvement was evident when he went out riding with his father, too. Instead of struggling to catch up like he used to, Patrick was now pushing their pace.
Patrick is now at the top of his game. And it was no surprise to anyone when he won all five races for the state championships this month.
“I knew I had put in more work than anyone else,” Patrick said.
But he didn’t want this moment to be about him. Around the third race, Patrick started thinking about shining a light on two other racers in the league: Dan and Andrew Thompson.
The Thompson twins, both rising high school juniors from Norwich in central New York, are on the Galena Growlers team and need someone to assist them on the trails. They have high-functioning autism and are known in the community for their enthusiasm and for singing the National Anthem at each race. The boys are incredibly passionate about the sport, and their mother, Kim, said Dan even advocated for having his high school recognize Growlers’ races during announcements when his principal didn’t want to recognize a non-school team.
Historically, NICA races included only a pre-recorded version of the national anthem, and the twins asked why. In an effort to change that, they started singing it before each race.
Their rendition brings spectators to tears, Patrick said.
“They go out there and they race their hardest,” Patrick said. “Everytime you pass by them they cheer you on.”
So Patrick decided to sacrifice his shining moment to cheer them on a bit.
As someone who once could only dream of walking on a podium, Patrick used his stage time to give two competitors their chance at glory on June 9. When he walked up to accept his first-place trophy, he grabbed the microphone and shouted out the Thompsons for their enthusiasm and sportsmanship.
“I had no idea Patrick was going to do that,” Kim Thompson said. “I was so choked up.”
Both the boys excitedly walked to the podium and stood proudly, before inviting their mother to join them.
Patrick then received numerous “thank yous” for sharing his moment, and he admits it was gratifying.
Bob was proud to see his son use his newly earned platform to highlight the two young racers.
“Winning the trophy is awesome, but connecting, mentoring and helping is what leadership is all about,” Bob said.
Patrick will now bring his athleticism and sportsmanship to the University of Vermont to study mechanical engineering and compete on the school’s mountain bike team. He said a mountain bike team is the “main thing” he was looking for in a school, and he will “100 percent” continue racing.