Photo by: Mike Resendez
When you think of high school fall sports what comes to mind? You’re probably thinking of football, soccer, girls’ tennis, volleyball, and swimming and diving. You might not think of some of the club sports that we have here in St. Paul. Ultimate Frisbee comes to mind. Yes, they have a brief fall season. One sport that you might not think of or even be aware of is Mountain Biking.
St. Paul Highland Park has had a Mountain Biking team for the past four years. It is compiled of riders in grades 7th through 12th and is made up of kids from Highland Park, Como Park, St. Paul Academy, Avalon School, and Minnehaha Academy. The team rides under the Highland Park name. The team is managed by one head coach and a group of dedicated parents that volunteer their time to make sure the team is ready for each race.
In conjunction with the National Interscholastic Cycling Association, the Minnesota High School Cycling League is the managing body that puts on the races each season. One of the main missions of the MN High School Cycling League is to get more kids on bikes and try a sport that has seen growth every year since the League was founded in 2012. According to their website several alumni are now racing professionally in California and have participated in the Olympics.
Individual riders are scored for each race with the final race worth double points. The courses get harder as the season goes on. Duluth and Mankato being the courses with the most hills. Riders can also be penalized throughout a race as well. Volunteers line the course to act as race marshals to observe and make sure rules are being followed and safe riding conditions are maintained.
This year, it is expected that 1400 kids will participate this year. The Highland Park team has over a dozen of those riders. Allan Shuros is a volunteer that has a racing and mountain biking background and got involved with the team a couple of years ago when his son joined the team. Last year his daughter joined the team and this year he took over as the head coach.
The season consists of six races. With the rapid expansion of the sport, each team chooses a bye week. Highland Park took the first race of the season as their bye week. Each race is then broken down into five divisions. They are the Middle School Division, Frosh (9th grade), JV2, JV3, and Varsity. Each division is broken down into boy’s and girl’s categories. Before each race riders are given the opportunity to pre-ride the course. That is the only time they are allowed to see the course before races start. Typically, the Middle School races get underway at 8:30am and the rest of the divisions follow. Middle school riders race one lap, Frosh and JV2 complete two laps, and JV3 and the Varsity divisions complete three laps.
Highland Park’s first race of the year was in St. Cloud on September 10th. The team finished 28th of 47 teams in the Middle School division. In the overall high school team results, Highland finished 21st of 43 teams. The second race of the year was in Rochester on September 24th. In that race, Highland placed 33rd overall in the Middle School category and had a strong 8th place finish the overall High School category.
Coach Shuros explained to me that in the Middle School, Frosh, and JV2 categories, riders can number is the hundreds for each one. The JV3 riders drop off to 75 riders and the Varsity riders are numbered at 40. When it comes to the drop off of the numbers of riders in the upper categories Shuros said, “It hasn’t been around that long and its growing interest in the sport.”
Highland Park has three races left this season. On October 1st they will travel to River Falls, WI and race at White Tail Ridge. On October 15th the team travels to Duluth and will race at Spirit Mountain. The season ends with the State Championships October 28th-29th in Mankato at Mt. Kato.
By: Mike Resendez
Highland Park Mountain Biking
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