Park City High School’s mountain biking team flourishes in the summer
The team appeals to both beginners and expert riders
Park City High School mountain bike coach Chris Best shows up at Park City Mountain Resort 45 minutes before practice and waits beside his yellow Sprinter van for his team to slowly trickle in. The Park City mountain bike team boasts about 100 high school students with another 75 kids on the junior development squad. Best believes that his group is the biggest club at Park City High.
“The growth is just crazy,” he said. “We were at 120 riders last year and the year before that, 80. In two years, we’ve added 100 riders. We try not to turn anyone away as long as we can scale the program and not put an impact on our community.”
Mountain biking isn’t a UHSAA-sanctioned sport, but it’s still taken seriously across the state. The Utah High School Cycling League organizes interscholastic competition for dozens of schools in Utah. The season starts in the fall, so as people come from all over the country to enjoy Park City’s renowned mountain bike trails during the summer, the Miners are getting ready for their next season.
Park City finished second in the North region and seventh overall at state championships last season. The town’s mountain biking culture helps foster the high school team, as the riders always have trails at their disposal. While some teams have to travel for miles for a quality ride, the trip from Park City High to Park City Mountain is just a mile and a half.
“When our kids get to the high school team, they are already pretty accomplished riders and, more importantly, they’re really good at trail protocol because they’ve probably come up through one of the local youth development programs,” Best said. “By the time I get them, they’re pretty dialed, so it’s pretty cool.”
For rising senior and team captain Ben Yaeger, who has been on the team all four years of high school, the races are the best part of riding for the team. He gave mountain biking a go after seeing that his friends were into it, and he thought it looked cool. Yaeger’s been hooked ever since.
“I was super nervous at first, but now it’s really fun,” he said. “The races are awesome, they’re put on really well. You cheer on your teammates, it’s fun.”
The social dynamics of the team keep things light to welcome and include everyone while still maintaining a competitive atmosphere. Riders like Yaeger have made dozens of new friends along the way.
“I met a bunch of people I never thought I would know and now I know them and we’re really good friends,” Yaeger said. “It’s a really cool, chill environment that’s a lot of fun.”
Genesis Munoz is a rising freshman who started riding with the team earlier this year. She always liked biking but had never tried mountain biking before. One of the benefits of being on the team for her is already knowing people before her first day of school at Park City High.
“Going into high school, now I know people that do the biking team and it’s going to continue during the school year, so I can bike with them and stuff, so I’m pretty happy about that,” Munoz said. “It’s really fun because you’re biking with people you know, and the coaches really help you.”
Mountain biking is both a team and individual sport for the Miners. Each rider is focused on his or her own individual improvement, but better times mean better finishes, which mean more points for the Miners.
At the same time, there isn’t the pressure of a serious time commitment or keeping up with the rest of the team. Some kids come to practice once a week, while Best’s most serious riders are on the trails for 20 hours a week.
“There’s a lot of kids that aren’t ready or they don’t want the pressure of a sports team like that, but they still want to be on a team,” Best said. “I think that’s what’s driving our growth is we just have a lot of kids who are just, you know, they need it knocked back a notch.”
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