Skyline Mountain Bike Team
May 8, 2018
The Skyline Mountain Bike Team is part of the National Interscholastic Mountain Bike Association (NICA), which was founded in 2009 with the goal of creating high school mountain biking programs all across the country. There are currently 22 states participating in NICA programs. Utah’s league was founded in 2012, and started as one region for the entire state. But for the past several years, there have been two regions due to the increasing number of riders. This upcoming season, there will be three regions as even more riders have joined their high school teams.
The Skyline Mountain Bike Team also reflects this growth in number of riders, the first year I knew about the team, there were around 10-15 riders, and every year it has gotten bigger as more people decide to try out racing mountain bikes. Even though gaining more riders can make the team feel less personal and like a family, it is great to see how many people want to get outdoors and just ride their bikes with friends. In the beginning, every rider was good friends with everyone else, and cheered each other on at every race. The families of the racers were also very close, and often got together outside bike team events. While many families and riders are still good friends, there are so many people that it would be very difficult to know everyone and cheer them on at the races. People now tend to stay in their own bubbles of who they know, and don’t interact much with the others.
To be eligible to race on a high school team, you simply have to attend high school, and have a bike. There are four divisions of the high school league. Freshman, meaning only ninth graders can race in this division. One step up is the sophomore division- only tenth graders may race in this division. Junior varsity (JV) is different because any grade can race this division. Freshman can petition up, and sophomores can ride if they finished in some of the top spots their freshman year. Juniors usually ride here, and seniors who don’t wish to ride varsity ride in this division. Finally, there is varsity. Potentially any grade can ride here, although it is usually juniors and seniors, the top finishers from the JV category are automatically bumped up to varsity, and freshman and sophomore may petition, though this is not very common.
The race season this year falls from September to October, with State Championships falling over UEA weekend. There are four regular season races, and then the state race which combines all regions in one gigantic race. The Junior Development Team (Jr. Devo), which is riders in seventh and eighth grade, only compete in the first three races of the high school season. Riding season and practices take place over the summer, though NICA does not allow official team practice rides to begin until July. Unofficial team practices for the Skyline team are going to start with a few rides in either late May or early June, and real practice will begin, as per NICA rules at the start of July. The Skyline team is planning on having three to four rides per week, with riders being encouraged to come to at least two each week. Riders do not have to compete in the races, although it is very strongly encouraged to participate in them. The races are not high intensity and are centered around just having fun on your bike.
NICA is not about winning or being the best, it’s about learning to ride a mountain bike and getting out to enjoy nature. NICA has five core principles that reflect what they want each rider to get out of their program, the principles are as follows: strong body, strong mind, strong character, equality, and inclusivity. The Skyline team, and every high school team, has incorporated these principles into their team statements. These mountain bike teams create a family of riders that support each other and have fun on bikes.