Since the first NorCal Race in 2001, more than 3,500 individual student athletes have raced in a NICA event. The movement that began with a math teacher from Berkeley High School is seeing a small stream become an impressive river.
This summer has been a time of growth in many respects for NICA. The association now has a new executive director, Doug Selee, and it held its first National Conference, a four-day meeting of all stakeholders including the student-athletes, in Santa Cruz, California in early July.
NICA is expanding faster than ever. In the last year alone, rider growth increased over 75 percent, from 1,100 riders in the 2011 season to 2,000 riders in 2012. Strong inaugural seasons from the Texas, Minnesota and Utah league have helped bolster NICA's growth over the past year.
The ratio of coaches to riders is astonishing. For every three riders, there is also a coach who mentors, teaches and helps bring together student athletes. Since December of 2011, the number of registered NICA Coaches had more than doubled. Only six months ago, there were 255 NICA registered coaches. As of July 2012, 730 NICA registered coaches were in the system.
NICA now provides high school mountain biking opportunities in California, Washington, Texas, Colorado, Utah, and Minnesota, with three new leagues about to enter this reach will soon extend much farther. As more streams join, a growing river of school-age mountain bike racers, the number of NICA student athletes, coaches, and leagues will continue to grow. NICA is excited about the growth and pursuing its mission of supporting every student-athlete in the development of strong body, strong mind and strong character through through high school mountain biking.
Meet the Athletes: Garrett and Kelsay Lundberg of Colorado
One of the most popular features of NICA leagues is that they are co-ed. In Salida, Colorado, Garrett Lundberg and his younger sister Kelsay have been having a great time riding on the same high school team, Salida Racing. We spoke to Garrett, who graduated this year.
Who started racing first?
I was the first one to start competitively racing about a year and a half ago.
Who encouraged you to start high school mountain bike racing?
My dad and mom were really big inspiration for us to start mountain biking. They love to ride and always took Kelsay and me riding to Moab, Durango and all around the great trails in our "Backyard" around Salida.
Do you two compare notes about your races?
I analyze a lot more than she does, but she makes sure I have fun.
What's it like being siblings on a school MTB team?
It was a lot of fun to race and just be on a team with her. Mountain biking is unique in that we both got to be on the same team. We enjoyed training together and then coming home and talking and laughing about everything that happened - epic rides, flats, crashes - etc. There are only good things in being on the same team!
How long have you been mountain biking?
I have been riding since I was about 4 and Kelsay since she was around 3, because I was there to help her. She likes to hum, sing and talk as she rides, and I just want to ride.
Do you two have any other sporting experience?
I was a big swimmer (Salida Cyclones) and runner before I discovered mountain biking. I also played basketball and have always liked outdoor sports like fly fishing and backpacking. Kels swam on the same team, played soccer and enjoys the same outdoor adventures as the rest of our family. She has gills and loves anything in the water.
What do you like most about high school MTB racing?
I like the team atmosphere and just how we all bonded together and were supportive no matter what the caliber of racing. We both like the positive energy of our awesome coaches and all the other riders. We like camping before the races and encouraging other friends to just ride and have fun competing too!
What are the biggest challenges for you in MTB racing?
Garrett: "The descents and nutrition have haunted me but I have been working hard on improving them." Kelsay: "Endurance - pushing myself to mentally finish the race with a good attitude. I can be physically tired but it is different than when I just want to finish the race and I have to push myself mentally - does that make sense?"
Who would you recommend high school mountain bike racing to?
Everyone. It doesn't matter how fast or slow you are, the mountain biking community really supports new riders plus it kicks butt and the chicks dig it! Just RIDE, especially with your HS team, it will rock your world!!
September 1-2: SoCal League Coach Retreat
September 8: Utah League Season Opener (Round Valley, Utah)
September 9: Colorado League Season Opener (Chalk Creek Challenge, Nathrop, Colorado)
September 9: Minnesota League Season Opener (Twin Cities, Minnesota)
September 19-21: NICA attends Interbike Trade Show (Las Vegas, Nevada)
September 22: Minnesota League Race #2 (Rochester, Minnesota)
September 22: Utah League Race #2 (Sherwood Hills, Utah)
September 23: Colorado League Race #2 (Snow Mountain Ranch Stampede, Granby, Colorado)