Park City High School mountain biking team rolls into ninth at state finals | ParkRecord.com

Park City High School mountain biking team rolls into ninth at state finals

The Park City High School mountain biking team finished its season on Saturday, taking ninth in the state at the Utah State Cycling Association's final ride in Cedar City.

Coach Chris Best said it was the end of a season categorized by extreme weather and tough races.

"Conditions (in Cedar City) were how they had been all season," Best said. "I think it was gusting 35 mph during the race … but a fast, fun course on trails none of us knew existed."

The toughest course of this season, Best said, was Moab, where riders battled wind gusts up to 50 mph. He described the conditions as "almost un-rideable."

"This is my first year (coaching the team) so I'm kind of blown away how tough these kids are," he said. "They raced in snow, they raced in … wind and they don't complain about it."

Best said the conditions at Moab added an element of road racing technique to the ride, with pack leaders building their strategy around the wind, and trading places between breaking trail and drafting. Earlier in the season, racers competed in sub-freezing temperatures during a race in Snowbasin Resort.

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"The season was like that this year, everyone had weather trouble," he said.

Senior Jenae Rasmussen led the girls team throughout the season and capped off her last year with a third-place finish in Cedar City on Saturday with a time of 1:28:16.84.

"She beat all the other Northern riders in her division, so yeah she rode an aggressive race and earned that one," Best said.

Junior Natalie Fink finished 22nd for the Miners with a time of 1:40:17.47, followed by junior Anna Castro in 25th with a time of 1:42:49.85.

In boys varsity, Rasmussen's little brother, Aidan, a sophomore, surprised Best by finishing 32nd out of 80 riders. He led the Miners with a time of 1:17:42.59.

"There aren't many sophomores riding at the varsity level," Best said. "It was a big step up for him, and for him to be anywhere near the front is pretty impressive."

Senior Tommy Fendler finished 55th with a time of 1:21:56.08.

Overall, Park City finished 9th of 22 teams in Division 1 (in which the state's largest teams compete). Best said historically the Miners have dominated the league, with championships in 2012, 2013 and 2014, but because the sport has been rapidly growing, larger schools have started to edge out Park City.

"We still have a lot of talent on the team but … the league has been growing massively," Best said. "We are now competing with teams that are two to three times the size we are."

For example, Best said the Miners' boys JV team had five competitive racers this season while Lone Peak had more than 30.

"The game has kind of changed for us because we are never going to draw those numbers," he said.

The good news is, Best said the addition of the Junior Devo team, which incorporates seventh- and eighth-graders into the high school team, promises to serve as a good talent base for future Miners varsity squads.

"From a competition standpoint, we were getting on the podium with the freshmen girls and getting on the podium with the freshmen boys every time," he said, reflecting on this season. "It will be pretty exciting to see where that goes. And on the Junior Devo side of things, we went from one (racer) last year, to 18 this year. It's unbelievable how popular it is."

With a host of strong juniors moving up and young talent joining the ranks, Best said next season could be promising for the Miners. Whether it will be enough to topple the new giants in the ever-growing sport is unclear, but Best said the Miners will continue to have a great time racing and training athletes to be competitive.