A day after a heavy rainstorm, undeterred student-athletes from around the state busted out their mountain bikes to chase glory and adventure across muddy trails.
The state mountain biking championship took place at Trek Trails outside of Waterloo on Sunday, Oct. 27, featuring two divisions of competition. The Madison West mountain bike team, which includes feeder middle schools, won the event with 3,718 points.
After winning each event in a five-race season that began Sept. 8, Madison West took the Division 1 state title with 18,235 points on the season.
Madison West competes in the Wisconsin High School Cycling League, one of the 31 mountain biking leagues of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association. NICA started in 2009, and the Madison West team started six years ago.
The program has grown to include a team from Madison Memorial as well as a Verona “composite” team, which groups Verona Area School District athletes with Madison “West Side” students from Edgewood, Belleville and New Glarus.
Under head coach Mike McGarry, the program has expanded from 14 kids to 96, including 29 Madison West riders. They all practice together at a mountain bike trail in the Quarry Ridge Recreation Area, 2740 Fitchrona Road, in Fitchburg.
“Eventually we’re going to be so big that Memorial is going to have to do its own thing and Verona is going to have to do its own thing,” McGarry told the Star. “And in a good way, not like, ‘Oh, we have to split up,’ but just because there’s so many of us. To bring 70 to 80 kids and coaches out there two times a week really takes over the trail system, so we want to be respectful of other trail users.”
The program’s growth is reflected across the state, expanding from about 160 racers at Madison West’s inaugural race to over 850 riders at this year’s championship, McGarry said.
“The season’s always amazing,” he said. “We’re having a great time. The kids are enjoying themselves, they’re progressing.”As McGarry spoke with the Star in the moments before the Oct. 27 championship race, his words were confident and prophetic.
“I think we’ve got a really good chance if everybody shows up and crosses the finish line and has their race,” he said. “We’ve got a good chance of winning again.”