Hundreds of high school and middle school mountain bikers will line up at a sports complex in Iola on Sunday morning for the state championship of the Wisconsin High School Cycling League. And while the league's co-founder and co-director says there will, indeed, be state champions crowned, she thinks the real victory is in the growing number of participants around the state.
"Our main goal is to just to get more kids on bikes," says Kathy Mock, "so that they have this activity to take with them into adulthood."
Mountain biking is not sanctioned by the WIAA, the governing body for most high school sports in Wisconsin. Rather, it is part of NICA, the National Interscholastic Cycling Association. For the four-year-old league, that's given them a couple of advantages in recruiting athletes.
"If we were a WIAA sport, it would be hard for kids to participate in races outside of their season," Mock explains. She says the relatively short season also makes it easier for mountain bikers to participate in other interscholastic sports.
Currently, the league has 49 teams around the state. Most are composite teams from schools within a geographic region. But Mock says the league's goal is to eventually have teams at every high school and middle school in the state.
The other major goal is to recruit more girls to participate. Currently, they represent 23 percent of the mountain bikers in the league. "We put a huge focus on getting girls into the program," Mock says. "Mountain biking is a wonderful sport, especially for girls, because it gets them out of their comfort zone and it creates a level of confidence they need to move forward in every aspect of life."