Preview: Tri-city area high schools begin mountain bike season Sunday in Flagstaff
Prep Mountain Biking
PRESCOTT — The 2018 Arizona Interscholastic Cycling League’s co-ed season begins Sunday in Flagstaff, and Prescott’s defending Division I state runner-up high school team hopes its program continues to surge despite its youth.
Badgers assistant coach Lorrie Nebrig credited all of the high school and middle school programs in the tri-cities, including those in area charter schools, for their commitment to mountain biking. She said 150 cyclists from this area, including three defending state champions, will race this year.
Prescott, Bradshaw Mountain, Chino Valley, Tri-City Prep, BASIS Prescott, Northpoint Expeditionary Learning Academy and the Ravens, a middle school composite team from Prescott, are all in the mix for the duration of the 2-1/2-month season, which features races every other week through Nov. 4. The Arizona league started racing six years ago.
“This year, we are in a little bit of a rebuilding mode,” Nebrig said of the Prescott High School team, which is under the direction of first-year coach Wendel Croy. “We don’t have any seniors racing. But we’re really heavy on the freshman, sophomore end of things. And we have a lot of new kids that haven’t raced.”
At 8 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 9, cyclists from across the tri-city area and the state are expected to converge on Fort Tuthill County Park in Flagstaff for the first of five league races. Race No. 2 follows Sept. 23 at Pioneer Park in Prescott. Race Nos. 3 (Fort Huachuca), 4 (Fountain Hills) and 5 (Waddell) round out the list.
“The first year we raced, I wanna say we had about 250 kids,” Nebrig said. “This year, they’re expecting over a thousand kids. We’re just about outgrowing our venues.”
ABOUT THE RACES
Each race, under the umbrella of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA), is divided into five waves of cyclists with staggered starts.
In Flagstaff, the middle school boys (sixth through eighth grades) race first (Wave 1). They are followed by the middle school girls (Wave 2); junior varsity and freshman boys (Wave 3); varsity girls, JV girls and freshman girls (Wave 4); and the varsity boys and JV boys (Wave 5).
Races in waves 1 and 2 consist of one, 5.9-mile loop. Races in Wave 3 last two laps, or 11.8 miles. In Wave 4, the varsity and JV-1 girls race three laps, or 17.7 miles, while the JV-2 and freshman girls go two laps. The races end in the 1 o’clock hour with Wave 5, as the varsity boys race four laps, or 23.6 miles, and the JV-1 and JV-2 boys race three laps.
Every male and female rider on a team races for his or her own position, with the goal being to nab a podium finish (first through fifth places). Prescott won a team state championship for its division in 2016.
“Above and beyond that, we race as a team,” Nebrig said. “So, there’s individual awards and then there’s team awards based on points.”
Prescott’s team has 27 bikers on its 2018 roster. Junior Bryce Vaughan, who raced at nationals this summer, guides the high school’s varsity team. Zaydie Croy, another junior who raced at nationals and placed in the Top 10 in her age category, leads the girls’ varsity squad.
Theo Fabian of BASIS Prescott, who will race varsity this fall, is a defending JV state champion, as is Tri-City Prep’s Ethan Krafft. Krafft will race varsity with standout Kevin Anderson at Tri-City Prep. At the middle school level, keep an eye on Tri-City Prep eighth grader Ellie Krafft, Ethan’s sister, Nebrig said. Chino Valley also has a solid team.
“Our area has some really strong riders,” Nebrig added. “Every school here is putting forth really good teams.”
Nebrig also credited Prescott Mountain Bike Alliance (PMBA) and the Over the Hill Gang for their volunteer efforts to repair and refurbish the trails at Pioneer Park in advance of the No. 2 race. This summer’s wetter-than-normal monsoon season took its toll on area trails.
Bradshaw Mountain coach Tracy Madler said she has 22 cyclists on her 2018 team, including 19 high schoolers and three middle schoolers from Glassford Hill. The Bears will not have any varsity cyclists this season.
Although some of Madler’s top riders chose not to compete this fall, she’s pleased with the JV team she has. In JV-1, senior Joe Ruwald and junior Mark Madler lead the Bears, along with sophomore Colin Streeter. In JV-2, watch for senior Aaron Bowman and juniors Julie Lawrence and Hannah Lonon.
Coach Madler said Lawrence is a returning rider, while Lonon is new to the sport.
“We’re just really excited to get going [for the race] in Flagstaff,” the coach added. “We have so many new riders. I’m looking for my team to have fun, stay safe and continue their improvement, getting better every time.”
Madler praised the Flagstaff course, which she said is a cooler one since it’s nestled in the pines. Each of her JV riders will race three laps on Sunday.
That course also is the “least technical,” coach Madler added, and is “a nice place to start” the season.
“We have some hot ones [races] coming up,” she said of the temps in Sierra Vista and the Phoenix area.
Doug Cook is a reporter for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Twitter at @dougout_dc. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 928-445-3333, ext. 2039.