America’s biggest high school sporting event held on Desert Canyons mountain bike trails – St George News

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ST. GEORGE – More than 2,500 student-athletes converged on the Desert Canyons bike trails for the Utah High School Cycling League State Mountain Bike Championship, the nation’s largest high school athletic event.

Runners line up at the start line of the freshman mountain bike state championship race, St. George, Utah October 22, 2021 | Photo by E. George Goold, St. George News

Three times as many people from across the state were expected in St. George this weekend for the two-day event, demonstrating that mountain biking is the fastest growing school sport in the state and in America.

Jake Weber, course designer and coaches trainer for the Hurricane Flying Tigers mountain bike team, spoke to St. George News during a walk around the Desert Canyons pit and trails on Friday morning.

“It’s the longest mountain biking course for high school students in the country,” Weber said. “This one is 7.3 miles and you do two laps. It has 600 feet of climb per turn, and that requires skills that these kids have developed over the year.

The ATV season has five races, including the state. It starts in August and ends at the state championship. Utah high schools are competing in four regions, South, East, Center and North with two more regions slated for next year due to growth.

“We like to say we don’t have a bench,” Weber said. “Any kid can come and do that. They can be part of the team without tryouts – no matter your skill level, you can run.

This weekend marked the second year in a row that the State Championship has been held at Desert Canyons, fostered by a unique partnership between the residential community developer and the Cycling League.

Year 1 riders of the State Mountain Bike Championship race, St. George, Utah October 22, 2021 | Photo by E. George Goold, St. George News

“They spent thousands of dollars in man hours and equipment to clean this up,” Weber said, explaining that the trails, on private land, are maintained and made available for the high school event at the developer’s expense. .

Weber spoke about the GRIT – Girls Riding Together – team and the Elevate program, through which children with special needs can participate in a race.

“I love the growth and the way we do mountain biking for everyone,” Weber said.

Schools in Region 10 all have their own clubs (mountain biking is not an officially sanctioned sport by the Utah High School Activities Association) after starting as a composite team called the Flying Monkeys about five years ago. .

“We got too fat to all be together so we went our separate ways in our separate schools and it’s been going crazy ever since,” said Sam Stoddard, Dixie High School coach. Stoddard was part of the Flying Monkeys in its early days.

Stoddard said Dixie Club has 72 children and they have had a great season.

“We love to ride kids bikes and give them a sport they can play for a lifetime,” Stoddard said. He added that sport creates a special bond between athletes.

“The kids are super competitive on the course and then they look to the finish line and cheer and cheer each other on,” said Stoddard. “They love it and they love getting to know other kids all over the state.”

Year 1 riders of the State Mountain Bike Championship race, St. George, Utah October 22, 2021 | Photo by E. George Goold, St. George News

The Iron County team includes athletes from Cedar High School, Canyon View High School, and other Iron County schools.

Iron County consolidated team coach Daniel Hall said they have 70 runners on the team this year, including 15 at the state championship. He agreed with Stoddard on the great atmosphere mountain biking creates in his athletes.

“It’s a great place, a fun course. The energy level in this area is really high, it’s a good place for mountain biking, ”said Hall. “Our motto is’ Ride a bike, be kind and stay red ‘.’ It’s about spreading excitement and getting kids to ride bikes.

Snow Canyon coach Nate Hansen said the Warriors have a large group of 10 freshman runners and will have a handful of runners in the junior and college races on Saturday. He said the secret to the growth of the sport is its appeal to everyone.

“You get the best of both worlds,” Hansen said. “It’s a team sport with a great team atmosphere, you cheer each other on.

“But when you run, it’s you against you,” he added. “So it’s both an individual sport and a team sport. There is something for everyone.

Regardless of the skill level or individual motivation of each rider, Hansen stressed that everyone has the same goal.

“The overall goal is for you to enjoy mountain biking for the rest of your life,” said Hansen, noting that most athletes don’t become professional football or soccer players.

“But throughout your life, you can still take a mountain bike and ride a bike,” Hansen said. “If we can get the kids to love this and be healthy, that’s what we want.”

Trisha Black was one of the many parents who charted the course along the singletrack, waiting to cheer on her son Nick Black, a first year runner at Pine View.

“He loves competition,” Black said of his son. “He loves horseback riding. He was self-taught and then joined the team this year. It challenges him to be better, and he loves mountain bike teams, they always cheer each other on. “

Black is a rider herself.

“I love this course, I did it,” she said. “It’s a really fun, super exciting class.”

Year 1 riders of the State Mountain Bike Championship race, St. George, Utah October 22, 2021 | Photo by E. George Goold, St. George News

The first race of the event on Friday morning was for freshmen only, and Hurricane’s Isaac Lebaron took a big lead in the first lap and held on to win the race in 58 minutes, 55.64 seconds.

“I’m so surprised, I had no idea how fast everyone was, so I was just hoping to finish on the podium,” Lebaron said, adding he could see second-placed Brighton’s Cole Horner just behind him on the second knee.

“I pushed him as far as I could, especially on that last little bit,” said Lebaron. Horner finished in 59: 00.35 and Jacob Taylor was third in 59: 41.88.

“My first lap on the climb I felt pretty tired, but on the second lap I had my second breath,” said Lebaron. “I felt really good on this second climb. “

Lebaron knows he set the bar high by winning the state race in freshman, but he plans to compete for the next three years.

“I’m going to train as hard as I can so I can stay ahead of these other guys,” said Lebaron. “They’re all really, really good so I have to call. “

Top Region 10 finishes in the freshman boys’ race included Mathew Dunkley of Snow Canyon (13th, 1: 04: 06.06), Dixie’s Gavin Talbot (21st, 1: 06: 07.82), Jackson Keith of Desert Hills (27th, 1:07: 25.44) and Benjamin Monson of Crimson Cliffs (42nd, 1: 10: 51.90).

To see race results and all finish times, visit this site.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.


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