Sports

Mountain bikers hang tough for first race in 2012

Yellow-shirted cyclists Antino Bellizzi of Lakewood, in front, and Wes Holboy of Arlington competed in the Washington State High School Mountain Bike League’s March 25 race at Fort Flagler. - Courtesy Photo
Yellow-shirted cyclists Antino Bellizzi of Lakewood, in front, and Wes Holboy of Arlington competed in the Washington State High School Mountain Bike League’s March 25 race at Fort Flagler.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

LAKEWOOD — The two-year-old Lakewood/Arlington High School Mountain Bike Team did well in its first race in the state for this year, with Lakewood placing 10th and Arlington placing 11th out of 19 at Fort Flagler on Sunday, March 25.

Head Coach Kristi Berg credited the young riders with investing at least two hours a day for three days a week on not only getting some mileage under their legs, but also learning how to properly position their bodies on their bikes to tackle the demanding mountain terrain.

“It’s a lot harder than it appears,” said Berg, who explained that the nine-mile freshman/sophomore course took about an hour for many students, while the 15-mile junior varsity course took an hour and a half, and the 20-mile varsity course took two hours. “It’s racing with an element of endurance, like cross country. You have to pace yourself.”

Hannah Mendro, a sophomore in the Arlington team, placed ninth out of 12 riders in her division, and described the composite team’s practices as low-stress and collaborative, even though she’s technically in competition with the Lakewood riders, such as her friend and fellow sophomore Nicholle Ayres, during the races.

“You can take out the stress that you’re feeling about homework or life by spacing out and looking at the trees as you ride,” agreed Ayres, who’s been riding on her own for seven years and placed eighth out of the 12 riders in her and Mendro’s division.

Still, Mendro acknowledged the challenges of the uphill and downhill trails, which are sometimes so steep that riders on the team have had to resort to running their bikes uphill, but which are also just as dangerous when riders are rolling downhill, and trying to follow the sport’s rule that the rubber remain on the road, with no air in between.

“It’s the feeling of overcoming my fears that drives me,” Mendro said. “I don’t want to crash, even though I know it won’t be that bad, but it’s so satisfying when I can go down a different route that I’ve never taken before, or I can go a little faster.”

“It’s not like having a job can be, where it can feel like a pain to roll out of bed,” said Chris Nelson, a junior on the Arlington team who placed 27th out of 36 in his division. “I wake up and it’s like, ‘Yes, I get to go riding.’ The trails are exhilarating.”

Sonya Suderman, a senior who just joined the Arlington team this year, only completed two of her three laps, but she’s sticking with it.

“It’s like a runner’s high,” said Suderman, whose teammates and coaches noted that it was a hard course for a first-time cyclist. “It gets my adrenaline pumping, especially to do something that I’ve never done before.”

Heidi Klippert, one of the other team coaches, pointed out that a number of colleges, including the University of Washington and Western Washington University, award scholarships for competitive mountain biking, and pledged that anyone who tries out for the team will not be cut.

“Even if you’re just a novice, we’ll teach how how to enjoy biking,” Klippert said.

The team’s next race will be at Washougal on April 15.

 

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