It's a bit of an unlikely group, really. The East High mountain bike club is a mix of students from drastically different backgrounds some with experience in other sports, and others with no sports experience.
That's exactly what was in mind when the club was formed.
The mountain bike club was spawned this spring in anticipation of the arrival of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) in Utah. The NICA started in Berkeley, Calif., in 2009 in an effort to provide an athletic outlet for students not interested in other sports or who were just looking for an extracurricular activity provides Utah high schools with competitive mountain-biking teams. East has had several students join the team so far and the excitement is growing with races just a few months away.
"I really don't have any experience, but I'll try," East junior Thappasarn Senacharoen laughed as he thought about the training that begins in August.
Senacharoen is just the type of student whom NICA aims to reach. He's a rookie to mountain biking, but jumped at the chance to join the club. Luckily for Senacharoen, sponsors have responded to the club's formation and even donated 10 mountain bikes, one of which he will ride.
Senacharoen has been mountain biking once in his life. He moved to the United States from Thailand two years ago into the mountain-biking mecca that is the Wasatch Front, and now he gets his chance to take advantage of it. He's not sure if he'll don any leader's jerseys in the fall's race series, but that's just fine with him and NICA, who promotes total participation for anyone who is interested.
East senior Keenan McDonough has more aggressive aspirations. He's a recreational mountain biker who was thrilled to hear of a competitive team being formed through the school. The sport isn't sanctioned by the Utah High School Activities Association. However, NICA hopes it can become similar to other non-sanctioned sports in Utah, such as hockey and lacrosse, which still provide a competitive opportunity for those who love the sport.
Team coaches Drew and Lucy Jordan, who met through mountain biking and even honeymooned in Peru with their bikes, are happy to spread their love of the sport. Drew first learned of NICA in California and dreamed of it coming to Utah. When asked by Utah High School Cycling Lead Director Lori Harward if he would coach East's team, the Sugar House resident and his wife bought in.
Now they have a group of about a dozen East students who will be learning at different levels how to mountain bike and how to race. The riders will be a part of Utah's first high school-affiliated mountain-biking league. The diversity of the group could have greater benefits than just getting outdoors, though.
"Hopefully it will develop relationships and friendships with other people that you wouldn't normally get to know," McDonough said.
East welcomes cycling team
The arrival of NICA in Utah gave East High the chance to form a mountain-biking club for its students.
Students of all different backgrounds and skill levels have joined East's team to form an unlikely band of competitors for the race series in the fall.
Sponsors have trickled in to provide the club with bikes and help cover other expenses, including jerseys and registration fees.