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West Jordan Journal

Grizzly mountain biking team wins division race

Oct 21, 2020 03:04PM ● By Greg James

The Copper Hills mountain biking team is made up of 21 riders seventh grade to seniors in high school. (Photo courtesy of Copper Hills Mountain Biking.)

By Greg James | [email protected] 

The Utah High School Cycling League has grown immensely since its inception in 2012. A team of Copper Hills student-athletes has made some noise in its division this season.

Mountain biking is not an official sport recognized by the Utah High School Activities Association, and because of that, it lacks support from many schools. Copper Hills organized its team about five years ago and recently took first place in its division at the first race of the season. 

The Utah High School Cycling League emphasizes the importance of everyone competes. 

“Every person on every team is important,” West Granite Composite coach Rochelle Bartschi said. “There can be a wide range of abilities on the teams.”

The Copper Hills team is currently competing in Division 3. The league is divided into divisions based on the size of the teams. Many of the more established teams have about 150 riders and have large sponsorships from cycle shops and businesses. The Grizzlies currently have 21 riders on the team.

In cooperation with the National Interscholastic Cycling Association and the Utah High School Cycling League, new riders are coached by certified adults and can have access to loaner bikes and equipment. No matter the riders’ skill level, they still compete. 

“Everyone gets to play; no one is ever benched,” the Copper Hills team recruiting flier says.

The racers have lap time limits and are monitored for injuries and dehydration. Track officials can pull the rider if they fall behind or exhibit patterns of being unsafe. 

The first race of the season held in Price Aug, 29. Freshman Alex Marshall and sophomore Joshua Williams each won their respective divisions; juniors Kelsey Carter, Samantha Miller and Carson Coles, along with sophomores Garret Geisler and Leah Homer, all came home with top-10 finishes. The team also placed first in Division 3.

“A team trophy, podium finishes and personal bests,” team members said celebrating their accomplishments.

Mountain bike racing is not just a boys’ sport. Currently, girls represent 20%of NICA’s overall student-athlete participation. A new initiative ‘GRiT’ (girls riding together) seeks to increase the number significantly. Copper Hills has three girls on this year’s team. 

“This can be absolutely a girls’ sport,” Bartschi said. “Our first year, we only had one girl on our team. I feel like once they ride, they will get hooked. They compete against other girls at their level. There are some amazing girls that have come into this sport.”

Not having a bike does not hold back its participants. The league offers loaner bikes to those who need one. The league’s core values include having fun, inclusivity, equity, respect and community.

Riders can join the league the summer before they enter the seventh grade. The junior Devo program is one of the first junior high/middle school leagues in the country.

The league is scheduled to have its final regular-season races Sept. 26 in Moab and Oct. 10 at Eagle Mountain. The state finals are scheduled for Oct. 23–24 in St. George.