As its inaugural season draws to a close, Science Hill’s new mountain biking team has certainly blazed a new trail.
Johnson City is home to Northeast Tennessee’s first National Interscholastic Cycling Association school team. A group of nine students ranging from middle school to high school make up the squad, which notched a fifth-place finish in its third race of the season on Oct. 8. There have been some memorable results so far this season, but Science Hill Coach Dwayne Letterman said the experience is more important than the results sheet.
“Cycling is sort of an everyman sport,” Letterman said. “Anyone can race bicycles. Anybody can ride mountain bikes. It is just a matter of how far you want to go. We teach them how to ride fast and how to ride down steep, rocky hills and how to climb those hills.”
The Science Hill team has been pushing it to the limit, which is something that sophomore Madi Rowe said that she enjoys about the sport.
“It’s really awesome and I really like it,” she said. “It’s fun to learn how to balance yourself and everything and there is a lot of discipline in riding a bike, especially on a mountain trail.”
Rowe, who has three top-five finishes, said she wanted to jump right in as soon as she heard discussion of the sport.
“I do it because it is a stress reliever and I like to do it, it’s fun for me,” Rowe said. “I like to go out and train hard and I like the team mentality of the sport and the way we are able to bond.”
The team participates during the fall sports season and takes part in four races across the state. The concept started with the creation of the NICA league, which started in California in 2009. The Tennessee league started in 2013 and Letterman said he knows of 23 teams across the state.
“Mountain Biking is the fastest growing discipline of cycling, largely because of NICA and USA Cycling,” Letterman said.
It also seems to be the perfect time to start the team in the area too, according to Letterman, who mentioned the construction of the bike park at Tannery Knobs and the opening of Winged Deer Park to mountain bikers. With additions like that, Letterman said he feels like the sport will only continue to grow in the area.
Liberty Bell 8th grader Bowen Reed said he has enjoyed the time he has spent learning the sport, and he will continue it for the rest of his high school career.
“The main thing I enjoy is the fact that it is a very versatile sport,” he said. “You can pretty much ride anywhere that you want to…It’s something that may not catch a lot of kid’s eyes, but I really enjoy it. I like the fact that we all practice together, that way we can all learn from one another.”
The team’s final race is at Sewanee on Oct. 29th.