High school bicycle racing takes off

  • Article by: ANNA PRATT , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 23, 2012 - 4:05 PM

The Minnesota High School Cycling League, which started its first season in August, will have its championship competition on Sunday at Buck Hill in Burnsville.

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Roseville Area Team racers – in red – were among the competitors in a high school mountain biking race in Rochester.

Photo: MINNESOTA HIGH SCHOOL CYCLING LEAGUE,

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Jordan Horner, a sophomore at Burnsville High School, started cycling at 5 years old.

Being a part of the Minnesota High School Cycling League through the Burnsville/Lakeville High School Team, which is new this year, has challenged her in a positive way.

"I feel stronger and better than I ever have in my eight years of racing," she said.

She's also having fun.

Her team is tied with the Roseville Area Team for first place. The championship race on Sunday at Buck Hill in Burnsville will determine a winner.

The league, which began its first season in August, is sanctioned through the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) in California, according to its director, Gary Sjoquist.

Throughout several races, the league drew 150 high school students to 16 teams, numbers that Sjoquist expects to double next year.

"I'm pleased with how it's progressed," he said. "The kids seem to be having a great time."

Parents are starting to get into it, too, creating "cycling families," he said.

Recently, White Bear Lake Area High School approved a lettering process for the extracurricular activity, to take effect next year.

"That in and of itself is a huge success story, that acknowledgment from the school that it's a worthy activity for their students," he said, adding that he hopes others will follow suit.

A longer-term goal is to get the activity recognized as a school sport.

In the meantime, Sjoquist said, he hopes to find a way to extend the cycling season, switch the races from Sundays to Saturdays and recruit more female coaches and riders.

Sjoquist credits the league's success in part to the nearly 70 volunteers that staff each race. Many parents are involved, while riders often help tear down the course. "There's such a great sense of cooperation," he said. "They really feel this is something special and they want to be involved."

Ron Kadera, the team director for the Roseville Area Team, said it's been rewarding seeing how far the riders have come in such a short time.

Despite the fact that the six-person Roseville team is one of the league's smaller groups, it's in the lead, with Burnsville. Its standing is especially impressive given that "our team wasn't winning in the beginning," he said. "That in itself exemplifies the improvement of the team."

For more information about the Minnesota High School Cycling League, check out www.minnesotamtb.org/.

Anna Pratt is a Twin Cities freelance writer.

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