After only a few switchbacks, I give up on trying to keep up with the pack of riders in the lead and fall behind. I round a corner and see Coach Christina Munly kindly waiting at a junction for me. Panting, I manage to say, “keeping up with these high-schoolers is hard work,” as my legs churn in low-gear. She smiles and reminds me that, “many of them are still in middle school…”
I am riding along with the Icicle Bicycle Club. The group of Leavenworth students practice and compete under the tutelage of coaches Travis Blue and Alex Breiger; and they are competing quite well. 8th grader Eli Fishburn is not only racing up in the Intermediate High School Category, but finds himself regularly at the top of the podium. Memita Marson has dominated the Beginner High School Category, taking first place in every race. Last year, when Memita’s bike broke prior to a race, the team rallied together and bought her a new bike and voted her the “Heart of the Team.”
We fly down the flowing track of For the Boyz back to Ski Hill and practice loops of climbing and bombing down single track.
Josh Wolfsman, who was voted this year’s “Heart of the Team,” tells me how mountain biking has taught him “how to set goals,” and that “you’ve got to sometimes try twice as hard to progress. I could just sit back and enjoy the ride, but to improve I’ve had to work and push my comfort zone.”
The team circles up at the bottom and talks about the upcoming race. They set their “Podium Goal,” where they are aiming to finish in their Categories. Then they set their “Race Goals,” something else they hope to achieve while at the race. I hear things like “make friends with racers from other teams…, relax and have fun and not get too nervous…, enjoy the scenery…”
They give “Fender Awards” to one another, complimenting their teammates. One racer points out how another really styled a section that day where they had previously wiped out. Another compliments a teammate for really getting after it on the climbs. Then the team began spontaneously thanking the coaches for all of their advice, time, and encouragement.
Looking forward, Travis and Alex want to expand to include the Summer and Fall seasons and to compete in more race disciplines including Downhill and Enduro. For now, the Leavenworth Mountain Biking Youth are having a blast, and crushing it one race at a time.