South Summit mountain bike team grows with areas trails
Kamas, and South Summit High School, are not known for mountain biking. The Wildcats have a record of being competitors in more traditional team sports, like football and basketball. But Christian Clegg, director of the South Summit Mountain Bike Education Foundation, said that with the growth of the local trail system and an influx of people into the valley, that is starting to change.
He said Kamas’ cycling scene reminds him of how Park City was 15 or 20 years ago.
“It’s still in its infancy,” he said. “But we’re really moving in that direction.”
For the foundation’s team, which supports riders from seventh to 12th grade, that means a growing roster, and a little competitive success.
The team was formed three years ago, with only eight riders on the roster. Now it has 24, but Clegg said it’s poised to continue growing by leaps and bounds.
“When we have our initial meeting in the beginning of April next year, I expect the team to double,” he said. “I’ve had probably 20, 30 calls, so I expect to have quite a few of those join the team.”
He had to turn those would-be riders away this season, as the calls came in after the cutoff period for joining the team.
Clegg said the racers that joined in the spring have had a constructive summer of training, and so far have enjoyed a successful season.
The team’s first race was at Soldier Hollow on Aug. 18, where Jurgen Cox took second in the seventh-grade division, and ninth-grader Lance Kalbach took second in the freshman division while Peyton Cox took placed third.
On Sept. 1, the team raced at Snowbasin, where Jurgen Cox took third in the seventh-grade division, and Kalbach took first and Peyton Cox second in the freshman division. In both races, the seventh-grade and freshmen divisions had close to 50 competitors.
Kalbach, who has been with the team since it started, set a goal of reaching the podium at each race this season, and has achieved that so far. He said the creation of the team was momentous for him.
“I love mountain biking, and as soon as I heard there was going to be a team, it was mind-blowing for me,” he said. “I just wanted to be on it as soon as possible. I couldn’t wait for the season to start.”
He said he didn’t expect to see a team form while he was at an age to compete, simply because of the town’s focus on team sports.
“I never thought they would do that,” he said of the team’s formation, “I never thought it would be possible.”
The team is not affiliated with the high school — the sport isn’t sanctioned under the Utah High School Activities Association, and though Clegg said SSHS athletic director Shad Stevens has been supportive, the club doesn’t receive school funding. Like all the state’s mountain biking teams, it competes in the Utah High School Cycling League. South Summit competes in Division II of the Central Region, which the league created this season to accommodate the sport’s new and growing teams. The Central Region already has an estimated 1,200 riders.
And for the most part, Kalbach said the participants are one-sport athletes, meaning they might not have picked up a sport had they not joined the mountain biking team.
Clegg said a few kids also compete in hockey and skiing, or run cross-country, but he sees the mountain biking team as filling a niche as an individual summer and fall sport outside of cross-country. Sometimes new riders join before they own bikes.
The nonprofit foundation has accommodated those riders by acquiring old and outgrown bikes from the team’s parents, then loaning them to the rookies.
“We let them use that loaner bike for the season until they figure out either they really like the sport and want to stick with it, or parents go out and buy them more of a performance bike, and then that (loaner) just goes back in the program,” Clegg said.
This weekend, the team will compete at Vernal Velo, in it’s second to last race of the season. The last is on South Summit’s home turf — High Star Ranch — on Sept. 29.
When Kalbach thinks about what the future of the sport holds for him, he sees a very competitive league.
“I will have to train all summer, and hope I can still be on top,” he said.
But he wouldn’t have it any other way.
He said mountain biking every day is exactly how he wants to spend his summer breaks.
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