When it comes to high school sports, this team would rather be RIDIN’

High school students in the Grand Valley now have the chance to compete on a mountain biking team. The team includes five regulars from Fruita Monument, five from Central High School and the rest from Grand Junction High School. Five girls practiced with the team and one competed in races last fall.

Steven Adams grew up on a bike. Despite having loads of athletic ability — he’s competed in BMX races for seven years — he’s never been able to represent his school on a team sport.

Until now.

High school athletics have traditionally focused on “ball” sports, which don’t appeal to some young athletes. But most youngsters have spent time on a bike and many go on to cultivate an interest in mountain biking.

When Adams’ mother told him about a high school mountain biking team, his interest was piqued.

“It wasn’t too difficult,” Adams said. “I went with the beginner group, so I was with people in the same situation.

“It was definitely a humbling experience, because I wasn’t used to the endurance aspect. I got tired really fast. BMX is a sprint. This you go an entire hour without stopping. I was really competing with these guys because it took all that I had to keep up with these guys.”

The Grand Junction High School 15-year-old is one of 19 boys and girls competing on a high school mountain biking team that formed last fall.

High school mountain bike racing started in Colorado the previous year (2010-11).

Kate Rau chaired the founding committee and is the executive director of the Colorado Leagues. It is sanctioned through the National Interscholastic Cycling Association.

She came to Grand Junction in August 2011 to attempt to form a team and bumped into Grand Junction High School teacher Russ Skinner.

“That was a big thing to find someone in the valley to take a team to the different events,” Skinner said. “Not only do you need a coach, but you need someone in the school system to recruit the kids.”

The team became official in the fall and it’s been a whirlwind since, Skinner said.

Skinner started getting the word out at Grand Junction.

“I saw a sign in the hallways,” Eric Pipkin, 14, said. “I’ve been mountain biking for several years. I thought it would be fun. I went to the first practice. It was great how many people showed up. It was a cool thing to find because I wasn’t mountain biking very much. That got me back into mountain biking.”

Jared Guillory, 15, found out from some friends and decided to give it a try.

“The first thing we did was watch a video of the Northern California league,” Skinner said. “Students are getting varsity letters. Our kids saw this video and are even more excited.”

Skinner had the team practice three days a week last fall.

“We had 19 that were at nearly every practice we had,” Skinner said. “We had a lot of practices with 26-27 kids.”

The team includes five regulars from Fruita Monument, five from Central and the rest from Grand Junction. Five girls practiced with the team and one competed in races last fall.

“It was fun,” Grand Junction senior Becca Roskowski said. “I’ve been in Skinner’s class and most of my family are mountain bikers.”

The team competed in four races.

The Colorado races average 260 racers for each event last year, Skinner said.

“They almost doubled the number of racers in one year,” Skinner said.

The teams are combined with boys and girls. The ninth/10th grade girls race first followed by the junior varsity girls and varsity girls. They do different laps.

The boys follow in the same order after the girls. The races are typically one hour long.

The courses are closed to the public during the race. Skinner said all the races they competed at were private courses and not trails open to the public.

The team is competing again this spring and could possibly host a race. The spring season is in April and May.

Rau is looking to bring a race to the Grand Valley, but hasn’t decided a date or location.

Skinner hopes to get more boys and girls in all four District 51 schools involved.

“Hopefully we’ll get more girls involved,” Skinner said. “We need ride leaders.”

One teacher from Central is helping, but Skinner is looking for more coaches and mountain bike racers. Skinner has posted flyers at the different schools and bike shops.

The Grand Valley Youth Cycling team is having a Youth Cycling Expo on March 3 at the Grand Junction High School commons area. The expo will include booths for more information about cycling, including BMX and opportunities with Colorado Mesa University’s cycling team.

The team is giving away a kinetic trainer through a silent auction.

“One thing that became obvious to me was we need youth cycling programs in the valley,” Skinner said.

Boulder has five or six junior cycling programs from which to recruit riders for its high school team.

Skinner, on the other hand, is building a program from the ground up with kids who may not come from a competitive background.


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