Park City's mountain biking mecca is no secret. Head out on the trail and you'll spot people of all ages hitting the dirt, so it's hardly surprising that some of the next generation's finest riders are being fostered through the Park City High School Mountain Bike Club. Here's a glimpse into the short, but successful history of the team.
A relatively new offering in terms of school sports, the PCHS Mountain Bike Club was founded in 2012 by Tom Cartwright when the Utah League was started under the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) and originally run by Evan Hyde. The 23-member team quickly expanded to 36 riders its second year and, in 2014, when the Utah League added a Junior Development (JD) division for 7th and 8th graders, they also welcomed 11 younger riders in that category. With a solidly established mountain biking culture in Park City to lean on, the newly formed team was able to dominate in the early years and they won both the state championship and overall from 2012-2014.
Although the competition has become much tougher just a few short years later, the team is still going strong. It now boasts more than double the number of members (42 high school riders, 19 JD riders) and is currently headed by Laura Patten with the help of Chris Best, who will be taking the coaching reins next year. The teams biggest blessing is still the location we live in; it's not every team that has 400+ miles of mountain biking terrain to gobble up. "We are extremely lucky to have a variety of trails and can adjust the riding location to weather, training, and upcoming races," says Patten. "We do have to find places that accommodate parking and the number of kids." With 30 to 40 riders at each practice, they have to break out into four separate groups. Thankfully, Patten and Best have 20 active volunteer coaches they can call on so each group is sent out with 2 to 3 coaches. To prepare for the race season, the team comes together to train once a week starting in June after school over for the year. Once school is back in session, they double down, heading out twice a week for training.
"It is an absolute joy watching the students grow and learn year over year. The changes in the beginners from June to October is amazing throughout the season. They start out shy and timid and by the end of the season, they are willing to try new trails and are comfortable on the bike and in a pack," says Patten. "But one of the best parts I enjoy about the team is getting out in the mountains and the kids having a blast as a Team while riding. It is very cool when they come off the trails as a group and they are stoked like they just skied the best powder day. "
Last year the PCHS Mountain Bike Club graduated a strong group of Seniors--Matt Behrens, Sienna Leger-Redel, and Connor Patten--who raced all four years of school, dominating their respective categorie along the way, and even participated in events outside of NICA at the national level. Of course, it's not all about winning. "As a coach, it is always rewarding to see a kid make the podium," says Best. "They worked incredibly hard and earned it. Equally rewarding for me, though, is seeing the kid who finishes with a scraped knee, maybe took a spill, or had to run across the finish because they had a flat or mechanical. That athlete learned just how strong they can be. They didn’t have to finish, but they chose to. They finish with a certain pride in what they overcame to finish. For sure, they had a team supporting them at the finish, but out on the race course it was just them. This is a life skill that is really hard to learn these days. I am so proud of every kid who finishes a race as I know its always a challenge, regardless of where you place."
The results are still out on this season with the 2017 State Championship scheduled from November 3-4 in Cedar City, but they have a few hopefuls sitting high in the rankings, including Jenae Rasmussen (currently 4th overall Varsity Girls), Sabine Wilson (3rd overall Freshman Girls), and Henry Silverman (7th overall for JV Boys D1A).