Established in 2012, the Park City High School Mountain Bike Club Team snagged the Utah High School Cycling League’s first-ever state championship title last year.
With more than 400 miles of singletrack riddling the mountains surrounding Park City, it comes with more than little surprise that last year was the first for the Park City High School Mountain Biking Club.
The club was formed by a group of parents and coach Evan Hyde to provide a place for kids who don’t fall within the typical team sports to compete athletically on behalf of their school. “Any kid who is a student at Park City High School and can ride a bike can be a member of the team,” Hyde says. “We have a category for every ability level. Fun is the primary goal of the club.”
The PCHS MTB Club is sanctioned by the Utah High School Cycling League (UHSCL), which itself was established just two years ago. Despite its short tenure, however, the League already includes 37 clubs. The first official UHSCL race was held on Sept. 8, 2012 at Park City’s Round Valley, attracting more than 350 teenage riders from all corners of the state. UHSCL events award riders points for individual results as well as team performance—teams earn points for every rider that finishes a race.
Varsity rider and current sophomore Matthew Turner racing at Soldier Hollow in the Utah High School Cycling League 2012 State Championships.
The Park City club trains and practices more than any other team in the state, likely a key factor in the Park City team ending Utah’s first-ever high school competitive mountain bike season as state champions. The upcoming 2013 season will include four races culminating in the State Championships in Moab on Nov. 6.
Competition aside, however, the PCHS MTB Club is about teaching kids the skills to enjoy mountain biking now and into the future. “We spend one day per week focusing on skills. Things like going around switchbacks, climbing steeps and navigating obstacles are much easier for kids to learn than adults. Fitness will come and go, but these skills will stay with these kids for a lifetime,” Hyde says. Trail etiquette is also a huge part of the club’s philosophy. “We call it the Spirit of howdy. We teach the kids that when them come across another trail user, they should slow down enough to say hi to that person and for that person to say hi to them,” Hyde says.
And though mountain biking may seem like an inherently dangerous sport, its injury rate is actually much lower than other more popular high school sports like football and soccer. “Even when we come across a natural jump in the trail, we always roll over it rather than trying to get air,” Hyde says. “There’s this perception that mountain biking is dangerous but last year with 20 kids participating in four races and probably 15 times as many practices, we had only one injury: a scraped elbow that required stitches.”
It’s the sport’s “extreme” gestalt, however, that’s threatening the future of the PCHS MTB Club just as it’s hitting its stride. The Park City School Board is currently reviewing its relationships with all clubs (including hockey and lacrosse) in terms of liability exposure. The board plans to make its recommendation to the Park City Board of Education in the coming weeks.
Melissa Fields is a Utah-based freelance writer. Her blog is utahvagabond.com.