The hills of northern Vermont where Anna Moriah Wilson grew up seemed to give her strength, propelling her to the heights of competitive off-road cycling. A collegiate skier who grew up mountain biking near her home, she had won several off-road races this year and arrived in Texas as a favorite in her next event.
But on May 11, just a few days before Gravel Locos, a 150-mile race in Hico, Wilson, 25, was killed. She was shot several times inside an Austin apartment, where her friend found her unconscious just before 10 p.m. Officers and paramedics performed life-saving measures, but Wilson died of her injuries.
Police said that the shooting did not appear to be random and that detectives had identified a person of interest.
The death of the accomplished athlete, who attended Dartmouth College after growing up in East Burke, Vt., stunned a close-knit cycling community that knew her by her nickname, Mo. She was best known for her performances in gravel races, something of a cross between road cycling and mountain biking across various terrains.
“Mo. She made everyone better, everyone try a bit more,” cyclist Peter Stetina wrote on Instagram. “I feel we were all watching her star ascend from this goofy side of our sport to the loftiest of heights. And we were all proud of her. I hope her family knows how much she meant to so many. She had that special sauce, that you knew was rarer than rare, that would be something spectacular, and everyone knew it. She was just getting started.”
In a Facebook post on May 14, the day of the race Wilson had traveled to Texas for, her parents, Eric and Karen, said, “We know that Moriah would want the event to carry on, for her compatriots to test their limits, as she would have been alongside her friends on the race course.”
“We hope everyone feels her passion and support as they chase their own dreams. Her spirit will be there with you all, while training and on every race day,” they said in a statement included in a Facebook posting from the Riverside School, a private school in Lyndonville, Vt., serving students in pre-K through grade eight that Wilson attended. “Always pushing tirelessly to reach her goals, we knew she was pursuing that which she loved. We will miss her terribly and know that all mourn her with us.”
Wilson graduated from Dartmouth in 2019 and skied for the college team, according to her athletic biography on the team’s website. Her parents are former members of the US Ski Team, and Wilson participated in National Spanish Honors Society and Cum Laude Society and enjoyed cycling and playing piano.
John Dwyer, the women’s alpine skiing coach at Dartmouth, said Wednesday that Wilson was an ideal teammate.
“The Wilson family are deeply rooted in Northern New England skiing and Moriah was a product of her upbringing, which Eric and Karen did so well; we feel their pain,” Dwyer said via e-mail. “Moriah was the best teammate one could ask for. She was kind, driven, and extremely focused on being the best skier she could be and had fun doing it. She was so well-respected and admired by everyone at Dartmouth and in the East Burke community, she just made everyone around her a better person.”
“It was thrilling to line up with this incredible group of riders — from all disciplines — to kick off the start of the @lifetimegrandprix series,” Wilson posted April 10 to Instagram after a race, part of a six-event off-road competition featuring 60 of the nation’s best cyclists. “There’s lots to say about how the race played out — it was so deeply dynamic & exciting.”
Officials at Burke Mountain Academy, a college preparatory school for competitive skiers in East Burke where Wilson graduated in 2014, remembered her as “an inspiration to our community.”
“Her death at a moment when her athletic star seemed so assuredly ascendant only amplifies the deep sense of loss associated with a beautiful life that ended far too early,” said head of school Willy Booker.
Booker’s words were echoed by former head of school Kirk Dwyer, who said Wilson’s father was a longtime coach at Burke and that Wilson grew up skiing in the school’s weekend program.
“We all share a profound feeling of sadness and loss in Moriah’s death,” Dwyer said. “Moriah was inextricably part of BMA, a deeply embedded Burkie.”
Dwyer said he had recently been “following Moriah’s achievements as Eric said how excited she was by her cycling results and turning professional. Looking at her photos and videos, one description which comes to mind is incandescent. Moriah matured into a vibrant, confident, and proud young woman pursuing her passion and living life to the fullest.”
Steve Annear of the Globe staff contributed to this report.