NICA High School Mountain Bike Racing In Wyoming

Success and Growth Lead to Thoughts of “A League of Their Own”

by Cindy Dywan and Caroline Esch

2018 SEASON RECAP

Laramie's 7220 Racing High School MTB Racing Team

Laramie’s 7220 Racing High School MTB Racing Team

With mountain bike teams in Casper, Cheyenne, and Laramie, it is common to come across high school riders out on the trails in Southeast Wyoming.  If you were to stop one of these riders and ask them about their experience on their team they would use words like fun, exciting, challenging, freedom, responsibility, friendships.  Each of the Wyoming teams is a 501c3 that relies on support from their communities to make each season possible.  Casper, Cheyenne, and Laramie teams compete along with teams from Colorado and New Mexico in the Colorado National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) League. There are four regular season races that all riders can compete in and a State Championship that is by invitation only.

Mountain biking provides the opportunity to compete both as part of a team and as an individual and is unlike any other sport available to today’s youth. “Every student who joins the team has equal ‘play time’, rides the same course, and is able to continue to participate in this sport for their entire lives,” says WyoX coach Jodee Pring.  The thing that really sets the sport apart from others is how enthusiastically each rider is cheered for by every spectator and coach.   “It’s a really welcoming and supportive atmosphere” is a sentiment that coaches, parents, and students all echoed.

Casper's CAMBYR High School MTB Racing Team

The Casper area CAMBYR High School MTB Racing Team

Leif Johansson (Head Coach) and Adam Leifermen started Casper Area Mountain Bike Youth Racing (CAMBYR) in 2010.  Since then they have been able to grow the team and this year they had 24 student athletes from Kelly Walsh and Natrona County high schools on their roster.  This year CAMBYR brought home their first ever Leaders Jersey (Maya Altland, Sophomore Girls), and had the fastest varsity boy (Adam Pickett) at the first race of the season. CAMBYR had 15 students qualify for the State Championship race that was held in Durango, Colorado.

Both the Cheyenne (WyoX) and Laramie (7220 Racing) teams have been competing in the Colorado NICA League since its inception in 2009.  WyoX was started by Todd Thibodeau and 7220 Racing was started by Rich Vincent and Cindy Dywan. WyoX had 15 racers with 4 who qualified for State. 7220 Racing had 6 racers qualify for State and consistently brought home the third place team trophy.  They also had a number of students who podiumed individually throughout the season.

Cheyenne's WyoX Racing High School MTB Racing Team

Cheyenne’s WyoX Racing High School MTB Racing Team

While podium finishes and state qualifiers are one way to measure success, the increase in confidence off the bike that students experience is equally important.  “As coaches, we teach bike skills and work on fitness, but we also focus on building strong minds, cultivate leadership skills, and help students develop into healthy, well-rounded adults”, said Laramie coach Cindy Dywan. This mirrors the Colorado League’s mission to provide students with exceptional mountain biking opportunities while building strong minds, bodies, and character one pedal stroke at a time.  “Having coached students for 9 years, we have had the opportunity to hear back from past students about how much participating in the sport of mountain biking has had a positive impact on their lives,” said Laramie coach Rich Vincent.

Up in the Northwest corner of the State, Jackson Hole Composite competes in the Idaho NICA League. Amanda and Nathan Carey started a local team for the Teton Region inviting folks from Jackson, Alpine and Teton Valley Idaho. Their first year they started with 7 student athletes and 11 coaches. This summer, with 93 athletes and 40 coaches total, they split the team into two teams, Teton Valley Composite and Jackson Hole Composite. “Jackson Hole Composite came out of the gates swinging”, said Jackson Hole coach Nate Carey.  Garnering 3x Division II Team Overall points trophies at 3 of 5 races and went on to become Season Overall Division II Team Champions.  Excellent start for a first-year team!

FROM THE STUDENT ATHLETES

On why they joined their local team:

“I wanted people to share my love of mountain biking with. I really enjoy having people to race and ride with because I know they will support me no matter what. I wanted to make myself a part of such an amazing community and have made many friends along the way. I love being part of the team because I have people who cheer me on and encourage me to become better. Their dedication to the sport inspires me.” -Isa Naschold, Laramie

“[I joined] because [my] friend Ben was into mountain biking and it sounded fun. I knew I wanted to compete in it, too. I have enjoyed the aspect of being pushed by the teammates on my team and from the other very good riders in the league the most. I would tell them [potential riders] that I think biking has one of the best communities of all sports and that it’s really fun.”– Sam Fay, Laramie

And for those still on the fence about joining Isa has a few words of encouragement.  

“I highly encourage others to become part of the team because there is so much more to mountain biking than just the sport. It requires perseverance, grit and courage, things we could all use more of. Mountain biking is one of the best communities to become a part of because of all the amazing people you meet and all of the skills you learn along the way.”

FUTURE PLANS

Finishing out the 9th year of competition in the Colorado League, Wyoming is looking ahead to starting its own League. Heading up this new adventure is Cynthia Dywan, Head Coach of the Laramie Team. Many of the teams in the Colorado League have seen exponential growth in the number of youths wanting to participate in the lifelong sport of mountain biking. The Casper, Cheyenne, Laramie, and Jackson (competes in the Idaho NICA League) teams continue to grow and interest from other Wyoming towns such as Sheridan, Lander, and Green River has made it obvious that it is time to start our own league in Wyoming.

This winter, Cynthia Dywan, will be meeting with directors of the surrounding NICA Leagues, current NICA Wyoming teams, and towns and areas across Wyoming that may be interested in starting their own teams. Because of Wyoming’s lower population, the Wyoming League will welcome both Middle and High School athletes. “We have talked about Wyoming moving to having its own league for years and I think we have finally reached that tipping point where we are able to create an amazing organization that supports and promotes its mountain bike student athletes. The bike has been a source of freedom throughout my life and still is today. I want to be able to help students all across Wyoming know that freedom and build up their confidence that comes from participating in this sport.” #WYLeague2020

GET INVOLVED

Teams are always looking for more students to come out and ride. All of the teams are setup so that students can participate in practices and decide if they want to race later.  Most of the Wyoming coaches do not have children of their own but see the value of sharing their talents with students in their communities. Teams can always use additional ride leaders (regardless of skill level) and volunteers for other things that make running a program go smoothly. There are also many opportunities to go to coaches’ trainings. Also, teams can use help with non-mountain bike things such as website and social media, fundraising, planning, organization, and more.

Anyone interested in checking out teams in their area should contact:

Casper @CAMBYR or email casperhsmtb@gmail.com

Cheyenne @wyoxmtb or email wyoxmtb@gmail.com

Laramie @7220Racing or email cyclingcindy@gmail.com

Jackson Hole @tetonregioncomposite or email natecarey65@gmail.com