Sports

Local girls excel at mountain biking

Elle Lee, a junior Running Start student, competes on the Arlington Composite team. - Courtesy Photo
Elle Lee, a junior Running Start student, competes on the Arlington Composite team.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

“Ride like a girl.” That is quite a compliment when talking about the Arlington Composite and Lakewood High School mountain bike teams.

While bike riding is often associated with boys, these girls are making quite a presence for themselves in the league and in the community.

From winning a national mountain biking award, to standing on the podium, to getting just plain dirty, the girls are ready to ride, and are excited for the new season to begin.

Elle Lee, a junior Running Start student from the Arlington Composite team, has had continued success during her cycling career. Standing on the podium in first place for two races as an intermediate rider, and moving up to Junior Varsity to finish the season and place third in State must feel great, but when asked about biking, she didn’t want to talk about the wins.  “It’s fun to ride like a boy.  It’s all about getting dirty,” she exclaimed.

Returning senior, and winner of Jeep’s national Exceptional Courage Award in Cycling, Hannah Mendro followed Lee’s comment with the question, “Why does it have to be different for girls than for boys?”

These girls are showing that it doesn’t have to be. They practice with the boys two to three days per week during the season on local trails, and race by category against other girls in the league on race days. Teammates come from Arlington, Burlington-Edison and Lakewood high schools, Post Middle School and Running Start.

The relationships these kids — boys and girls — are building with each other from our area schools have been instrumental to the growth of the team.  Their bonds extend beyond practice and race day to new friendships outside of the team.

“Riding is personal. People do it for many different reasons. It is about individual achievement and challenging one’s self,” commented Coach Heidi Klippert. “And it’s exciting to watch the riders support each other on and off the course.”

Post Middle School  seventh-grader Hallie Williams joined the league last year. Her older sister Kayla had already been racing, and 2013 was the first year middle school students were allowed to join in the fun. Adding middle schools to mountain biking is groundbreaking at not only the state level, but also nationally. Hallie Williams was a natural, and placed fourth in State.

Her sister Kayla Lampert, of Arlington High School, and teammate Dana Arenz, of Lakewood High School, also finished the season on the podium. Kayla beat Dana by just five seconds to take first in State and first overall for Beginner Girls. Kayla, a returning rider, shared her feelings about last year’s success.

“The first time I got on the podium was third place. This was remarkable. I accomplished so much, and as the season was going I kept increasing my skills. It was really fun to have my sister ride with me on the team too. We pushed each other. That’s probably how I got better.”  It was Arenz’s first year riding, and a change from traditional high school athletics. Familiar with endurance and fitness, she focused on technical bike handling techniques. Her work ethic paid off and she placed second in State and third overall.

The Arlington and Lakewood girls are great examples of how one can excel confronting personal challenges, competing against other riders, and growing as independent young women.  Hannah Mendro reflected on her biking experiences and how she has grown, “Part of what I’ve learned from bike team is biking isn’t about being safe. It isn’t about what’s easy, or comfortable. To me, it’s about leaving my comfort zone (and) daring myself to go one step farther.”

A biker and cheerleader from the Camas team summed it up with, “I love it!  You can get muddy and you can get dressed up and be pretty. It is about finding balance.”

For more information, check out the league website www.washingtonleague.org or contact Coach Klippert at arlington@washingtonleague.org. The teams are looking for boys and girls from local high schools and middle schools. Come and join the Lakewood/Arlington/Burlington High School Mountain Bike teams. Registration for the 2014 season opens on Dec. 1.

 

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