MIDWAY, Utah - Last weekend more than 400 Utah high school student-athletes raced their mountain bikes on trails designed for the 2002 Olympic Nordic ski racers at Soldier Hollow. The event was the fourth race out of five organized by the Utah High School Cycling League and the final event in the Wasatch before the state championship next month in Moab.
Depending on their age category, students completed two, three or four laps on a challenging 5.7-mile course.
"This course was the most physically demanding of the series," said Utah league director Lori Harward. "It was great from a spectator standpoint with the kids streaming across the course back and forth, but they never got a break. Everyone who rode on Saturday had to push themselves and can leave with a real sense of accomplishment."
The top finishers were familiar faces in the 2013 series, with Olympus High's Justin Griffin winning the varsity boys' race for the third event in a row and Park City's phenom Hayley Batten keeping her season sweep intact with a dominant performance in varsity girls.
Varsity girls completed three laps under clear skies, on dry trails and with temperatures in the comfortable upper 50s. Racing as a freshman in the varsity women's race, Batten kept a steady pace to overcome second-place finisher and teammate Brenna Egan, followed by Ogden High's Cate Carabine.
"I was feeling really steady and going as hard as I could on the climbs and made sure I had enough energy for the three laps I had to do," said Batten. "Shifting was really important because there were a lot of climbs and it was really bumpy with lots of quick uphills and downhills, so keeping a steady cadence was my main goal."
In the afternoon's varsity boys' event, a group of five racers - Griffin, South Davis Composite's Zach Peterson, Park City's Matthew Turner, Weber's Anders Johnson and Jordan Pope of Wasatch High School - fought to keep just-enough energy in the tank for a close finish. But at the end it came down to a two-man sprint between Griffin and Peterson, with Griffin barely beating Peterson at the line, followed one minute, 21 seconds later by Turner in third, then Johnson in fourth - after a valiant effort on the first lap to take the hole shot - and Pope in fifth.
In the overall team standings after four rounds, Park City continues to lead Corner Canyon in the Division 1 rankings and South Davis Composite maintained its lead over North Davis Composite in Division 2.
The Utah High School Cycling League continues on Nov. 9 with the final race of the season and state championship race in the mountain bike mecca of Moab. Visit www.utahmtb.org/events/races for more information about the venue and a course map.
For more information about the league, please visit www.utahmtb.org.