The inaugural season for high school mountain bike racing in Minnesota closed with an awards party on Saturday, November 10. Held at Quality Bicycle Products, the event drew close to 200 racers, parents, and volunteers.
"I'm very proud of our racers, coaches, and parents for their outstanding support of our new league," said Minnesota League Director Gary Sjoquist. "Many parents said to me tonight, 'Thank you for starting this and giving our kids a healthy, outdoor activity,' so you know what we've put in place connects not only with the student-athletes, but also with their parents."
Besides the individual awards and team trophies, attendees were able to tour QBP, bid on silent auction items, share a great meal, and purchase Minnesota League apparel.
At the awards party, the top finishers in each of the age group classes within the racing categories were recognized. Also recognized were "Racers with Heart", student athletes who gutted it out to complete tough races and score points for their teams. The "Courageous Coach" award went to Mary VanPilsum-Johnson, the head coach for the Hopkins team for her "unrelenting efforts to start a team". Additionally, thanks to League sponsor Park Tool, each racer received an inaugural season engraved mini-tool as a commemorative gift.
A highlight of the awards party was the announcement of a statewide initiative to recruit girl student-athletes as mountain bike racers and women as coaches in the Minnesota League. League Director Sjoquist received checks totaling nearly $6,000 to fund this effort thanks to Morgan Luzier of the Balance Fitness Studio and Mark Hartney, the local Specialized rep who offered to match funding gathered to put student-athletes on mountain bike. Several others stepped up to write big checks to fund this new initiative.
"Our awards party was simply an amazing event, which is fitting because it was an amazing year," said Sjoquist. "The initiative to recruit more girls and women into our league was a huge, unexpected gift. But in terms of getting high school athletes on mountain bikes, we've just started. Now our efforts turn to helping new teams develop from all sectors of the state to be ready for our Fall 2013 season opener. Thanks to the efforts of my core staff, the fabulous support of our sponsors, and the willingness of our student athletes to embrace our new league, we might be looking at 300+ racers on the start line at the first event next fall. It's very exciting and incredibly rewarding to be able to bring this activity to both student athletes and their parents."
Final overall Minnesota High School Cycling season championship standings can be found at minnesotamtb.org.