Alise Post walked through the doors at Pineview Park in St. Cloud on a recent Saturday, and her mother started to cry.
She walked to the motocross track, and her father, ready to start a race, froze. "Good thing, too,'' Mark Post said. "If I had started the race, they would have run her over.''
Post began racing BMX bikes when she was 6. She became so good so quickly that her parents became the driving force behind the creation of Pineview, which they still operate.
She became so good that she chose to study at San Diego State, where she could be close to the U.S. Olympic training center in Chula Vista, and qualified for the Beijing Olympics, only to fail to meet the minimum age requirement as a 17-year-old.
Four years later, she's grown up, healed from a devastating knee injury last summer, and ranked second in the world in the UCI Supercross World Cup Standings. Nicknamed "The Beast," she will compete for the U.S. in the London Olympics starting with seeding runs Wednesday.
As a motocross star, she spends more time in foreign countries than in St. Cloud. Her sponsor, JBL Audio, flew her home before the Olympics for a surprise visit, and presented a check to her parents for $10,000 that will allow her family to watch her in London.
"We had seen her once in the last nine months, and didn't think we'd see her 'til September," Cheryl said. "So when she walked in ... oh, the tears."
Her parents miss her, and cringe every time they see her twist a limb in a crash, but mostly they brag about the little girl who, once she overcame her original jitters, proved fearless. As a 6-year-old, Alise didn't want to race, but her brother Nick, eight years older, kept pushing, so much so that her parents bought her a season pass at a track in Brainerd.
Alise balked. Her father thought about asking for a refund. Her mother insisted she try again.
On Alise's second trip to Brainerd, she pushed off the starting line and fell in love with the sport that would change her life. Soon Nick was painting an old snowmobile helmet gold for his sister.
"She raced her first race, and took home a trophy, and that was all it took," Cheryl said. "She'd wear turtlenecks and winter coats and that funny gold helmet, and ride a 16-inch, 50-dollar Mills Fleet Farm super heavy-duty bike. Eventually, we had to upgrade."
BMX racing would trump gymnastics and dance for a kid who learned to love flying through the air.
"After my first crash, the competitive instincts took over," Post said.
Aided by gymnastics training, in 2006, she became the first woman to be named Rookie Pro of the Year by BMXer Magazine.
"I competed until I was 18 in gymnastics, and I loved it," said Post, who was a three-time high school state champion on the vault at St. Cloud Tech. "It helped me a lot in BMX. ... It's helped me with body awareness and crashing, and being flexible has helped me avoid injuries, and trouble. But obviously a few bad things have happened."
Last summer she suffered a major knee injury in a crash, just before the 2011 World Championships. She recovered in time to take first place at the 2012 UCI BMX Supercross in the Netherlands and first at the 2012 USA Cycling BMX National Championships for elite women in Chula Vista.
"I don't think anyone expected me to be back in time for all this,'' she said. "I was able to shorten the rehab cycle, and I've had the best year I've ever had."
Her parents push their own limits, working what they call their "real" jobs during the day and running the track nights and weekends. Even before JBL came through with a check, their friends and customers had raised funds to help Mark and Cheryl travel to London. The JBL check means Post's brothers and grandparents could go as well.
Mark worked at the Verso paper mill in Sartell until an explosion on Memorial Day shut down the plant. It was announced last week that the plant will not reopen.
"We started panicking, wondering, 'How are we going to pull this off if you're not going to be working?'" Cheryl said.
"The support has been overwhelming," Mark said.
And their trip down the bargain bicycle lane at Fleet Farm led to London.