Kelly Ferguson rides in Pelotonia to pay tribute to her father, Mike, who is synonymous with Whitehall-Yearling High School athletics.

Next month, Ferguson, 29, will participate in her second Pelotonia in honor of her father, who died Oct. 20, 2015, after a long battle with cancer. He was 59.

"He was always motivating and wanted me to do my best," Ferguson said. "Those are the kind of things I keep in mind when I'm riding and doing any sort of exercise to prepare, just trying to make him proud."

Ferguson said her father, Whitehall's longtime athletics director, was diagnosed with cancer on the tongue in 2012. It was later considered to be in remission, but it returned and metastasized to his brain.

Ferguson, who became an avid rider while training for the charity bike tour, will pedal the 45-mile route, which begins in Columbus and ends in New Albany.

Before beginning training for Pelotonia last year, Ferguson said the last time she rode a bike was while she was in middle school.

"It's nothing compared to what I saw him go through," Ferguson said of riding the bike tour. "There's great support from people and survivors that are out on the road, cheering you on and it's very inspirational."

Pelotonia benefits Ohio State University's James Cancer Hospital, which has special meaning for Ferguson and her family because her father received his treatment there.

"It goes right to the James Cancer Hospital and I have nothing but positive, good things to say about them," Ferguson said. "They were all very incredible through everything. My father was treated there and he absolutely loved his nurses and all of the doctors he had. He had a good experience there."

Ferguson, a Westerville resident, is an eighth-grade intervention specialist at Walnut Springs Middle School in Westerville and has connected with co-workers and friends to form Team Walnut.

Other riders will include family friends Sean and Meghan Athey and Matt and Carly Athey. Ferguson rode with Carly Athey last year.

Last year, Ferguson raised just over $3,000 individually, and Team Walnut raised $8,000. She hopes to match her individual effort this year.

Mike Ferguson, a 1974 graduate of Whitehall, was inducted into the Ohio Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association Hall of Fame in 2014.

Whitehall's athletics field was renamed Mike Ferguson Field on Oct. 9, 2015.

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank