Sports

Local mountain bikers among the best in the state

Tyler Carr keeps control as he rattles down the rough dirt paths of the Washington State High School Mountain Bike Championships at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. - Courtesy Photo
Tyler Carr keeps control as he rattles down the rough dirt paths of the Washington State High School Mountain Bike Championships at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

LAKEWOOD — Most of the members of the new Lakewood High School Mountain Bike Club started without a cycling background, according to head coach Kristi Berg, but in two months’ time, they progressed from learning the basics of mountain biking to racing successfully enough to be recognized as among the best in the state.

On May 1, the seven-member team of Lakewood, Marysville and Arlington students went to Joint Base Lewis-McChord to compete in the inaugural Washington State High School Mountain Bike Championships, and out of the 22 teams that had registered in the Washington state National Interscholastic Cycling Association this year, the composite Lakewood, Marysville and Arlington team placed third overall.

“The girls raced 12K, while the boys raced 16K, on a course that consisted of dirt trails and paths that constantly changed in elevation, with short, steep, punchy climbs and white-knuckle descents,” Berg said. “We are really proud of the kids on this team. What a first-year season.”

Lakewood High School freshman Nicolle Ayers placed fifth for the girls, followed by Arlington High School freshman Hannah Mendro in sixth and LHS freshman Jessica Scott in ninth. For the boys, Marysville’s Tyler Carr, a freshman at the Montessori School, placed eighth, followed by LHS seniors A.J. Cope in ninth and Eddie Mitchell in 15th. Mitchell finished the race with only his front brake, after losing his rear brake halfway through the first lap.

Although thrice-weekly practices quickly helped the kids build their ability to handle their bikes off-road, a few of them have had to borrow bikes that are safe enough to ride in such conditions, as they save up to buy new bikes from team sponsors Stanwood Velo Sport in Arlington. Berg also credited Action Sports in Arlington with assisting the team with bikes, parts and equipment, and team clothing. She praised both businesses for making the team’s accomplishments possible through “their dedicated support,” and likewise characterized the team itself as surmounting its challenges through positive attitudes and mutual support.

“They’re all really good kids who just like to be outside,” Berg said. “It’s been fun creating the team and seeing kids who didn’t know each other start to become friends and have something in common. Unfortunately, with budget cuts and the poor economy, kids are not getting as many opportunities to participate in sports, as programs are dropped and high gas prices limit transportation to events.”

Berg sees cycling as a productive response to such circumstances, not only by developing greater physical fitness, but also by giving students another avenue for transportation to and from school and work.

“And cycling is something that you can continue to do at a recreational level, or racing, after high school and college in our local communities,” Berg said. “It’s a sport you can continue for the rest of your life.”

Because this was the team’s first year, its shortened season has included only two races so far, but Berg anticipates her young cyclists will take part in four races from March through May of next year. On May 22 of this year, they’ll be conducting a four-hour “Mile-a-Thon” fundraiser, to help compensate the kids for the fees and costs they’ve paid by pushing them to complete as many miles as they can.

“There are also local races throughout the state that we’ll encourage the kids to compete in on their own, to keep up their fitness throughout the summer,” Berg said.

If you are interested in sponsoring the team or learning more, email Berg at kristi@cycleu.com. More information about the Washington State High School Mountain Bike League can be found at www.washingtonmtb.org.

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