ARLINGTON — For Lakewood and Arlington high school mountain bikers, it’s time to get ready for the new season. The teams, which practice together, formed three years ago and last year were ranked the No. 8 and No. 10 teams overall.
The teams are hosting an informational meeting on cross country mountain bike riding and racing at Hubb’s Pizza in Arlington on Nov. 5, at 6 p.m., in an effort to attract more riders. The teams had 14 racers last year, a number that is double their enrollment in their inaugural year.
“We joined a new league this year and it’s now open to middle schoolers,” said coach Heidi Klippert. “We have definitely seen an increase in people interested in the sport as we learn how to organize and reach out to kids in the area. It’s been mostly word-of-mouth.”
For Klippert, getting local kids interested in the sport is important because it not only promotes physical well-being but also a sense of accomplishment.
“This is really a lifetime sport,” she said. “Some kids don’t know that there are woods that you can ride in, in the Arlington area. A lot of these kids haven’t done school sports at all, but this is one that promotes fitness, camaraderie and getting outside to enjoy the fresh air. Once they get started they can keep riding for years.”
Competitive mountain bike racing includes outdoor trail riding courses and this year the league — the Washington Student Mountain Bike League — is hosting six races, as well as other team building and training events. The WSMBL has teamed up with the nonprofit Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance to keep the sport more Washington central, as well as offer training in leadership and environmental stewardship.
“This is the first time that middle school is added and it’s important because it gives kids the opportunity to experience the sport before they reach high school,” said coach Kristi Berg. “Once kids are in high school, they sometimes think they can’t start a new sport, so this is a good time for them to get a handle on it.”
The informational meeting is aimed at garnering interest among new riders.
“We are holding the info meeting to give them a rundown of what the program is all about,” said Berg. “We are trying to build more programs throughout the state. For Snohomish County, there aren’t that many teams. We are really trying to get the word out. I want kids to try out cycling and let them know that there is another sport they can try.”
Lisa Miller, executive director of the WSMBL, is excited about the new partnership with the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance.
“They are the premier trail advocacy group in our state,” said Miller. “And it’s great that we are including middle school this year. The best thing about this sport is that a high schooler can do it for the first time. With most other sports — soccer, football, volleyball — if they haven’t done it before, they aren’t going to make the team. For this to be attainable and reach a broader audience we need to reach out to students at a younger age.”
By partnering with the EMBA, the league is able to support more racing events, as well as an expanded season in upcoming years.
“We are trying to expand to both a spring and fall season in 2013,” said Miller. “We are also going to offer a student leadership summit in February, with lectures and seminars. We are also hoping that our veteran high schoolers can facilitate a program to mentor the middle school riders.”
For Miller, the opportunity to participate in this sport goes beyond the race itself.
“This is really about much more than riding a bike. The outdoors is a great school of life and the bike is one avenue to reach the classroom. This is about fitness, strength and stewardship of the trail. And we are very excited to bring the program locally and tailor the program to our regional needs.”
For more information visit www.washingtonleague.org.