Trail Ramblings: Meet The Lancaster Composite Team.

The following is a guest article by Jesse Poore, one of the Lancaster Composite Team’s assistant coaches. Jesse says “we want to weave our team into the fabric of the area bicycling community.” With that in mind, here they are.

Growing our Own “Lancaster Composite” Mountain Bike Team

What started off as a grassroots effort in 2014 to form a club sport for high school mountain bikers in Nebraska has grown into a fully sanctioned league under the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA). On October 1, 2019 the Nebraska Interscholastic Cycling League (NICL) came to fruition through many volunteer hours and an established base of young, enthusiastic mountain bikers. Over the summer a core group of coaches from Lancaster County underwent NICA’s intensive training to become a registered NICL team. There are currently 74 registered athletes between Omaha-Lincoln-Norfolk areas, which will expand in 2021.

NICA programs work to instill values like community, respect and inclusivity. The Lancaster Composite team was established to facilitate the physical inclusion of any athletes educated within our County. Our current roster includes 11 athletes from 6-11th grade. There are three female athletes and five of the nine coaches are female as well. As the team grows in number, we look forward to growing in a manner that reflects the multi-cultural, gender non/conforming, and socio-economic diversity that exists in our region. All student athletes are welcome and all registered riders take part in all activities. There is no Lancaster Composite team bench, no B team, and no limits to the potential character building a mountain bike and a team can unleash. 

Some of the Lancaster Composite mountain bike team athletes and coaches aided Sarah Hartzell of the Lincoln Parks Department with public outreach for the Wilderness Park User experience Master Plan. Sara became an honorary member of the team for her work to create great trails in and around Lincoln. 

The Lancaster Composite team’s Head Coach is Joel Tabor and the Director is Yun Saksena. Carrie Johnston returned to Lincoln this summer from Alabama where she was a team coach for Gulf Coast Composite. She helps coach our team and also serves as the League’s Race Director. All team coaches are NICA certified, background checked, first-aid/cpr trained and skill equipped. The time and financial investment that NICA mountain bike coaches put into this process is essential to fostering a safe environment and protecting the student athletes’ health and well being. 

The coaches spend time each practice celebrating what the students learned the past week (on or off the bike), teaching new skills through NICA-approved curriculum, training the skills through practice and games, and helping athletes set personal goals such as endurance, skills and/or teamwork. The skills learned here can be applied to mountain bike trails anywhere in the world.

Ongoing team communication helps reinforce NICA bike-handling skill keywords, learn from each other, and celebrate accomplishments. Shout outs and kudos are shared following each practice and event.

The inaugural year has brought on a few challenges, including the tough decision to eliminate all formal races due to COVID-19. Instead of a formal race with a mass start, the league opted for a practice style time trial that split up the teams into different time slots on two separate days. Social distancing guidelines were also put in place. The first time-trial event , hosted at Arkfeld Acres north of Bennington, comprised of  a windy three-mile, mixed terrain course with various features. Riders maintained two wheels on the trail at all times, using learned skills to navigate steep declines, berms, as well as rough and winding trail sections. The team did a pre-ride session together, communicating about the features, possible bike-handling skills that would come into play, and how much fun we would have racing ourselves. The inaugural time trial was a great success and the second event is planned for the approximately four and a half mile course at Branched Oak 7 on October 24-25th. 

A team time trial format has been used in 2020 and gives the athletes a sense of competition they can have with their own goals while being supported and challenged by their teammates. 

Our athletes will become the next generation of ____________. We hope the NICA and Lancaster Composite’s life lessons, positive encouragement, and fun helps fill in that blank with words like “trail stewards,” “mountain bike enthusiasts” and “coaches” but either way we know that the mountain bike is a perfect vehicle to create the next generation of leaders. To do that to the best of our ability, we invite the Lancaster Community to support us. There are five ways you can show support for Lancaster Composite now and in the future.

  1. Share this post with your community of influence to spread the news about our team
  2. Like, follow and share content on our Facebook page @LancasterCompositeMTB
  3. Encourage parents to email [email protected] to register 6-12th grade athletes
  4. Become a financial or in-kind sponsor for our 2021 team. Sponsorship packages will be posted online and shared with the bicycle community. 
  5. Give encouragement to kids on bikes. Make them feel welcome in this great community. You want them here. You need them here. Make sure they hear that from you on the trails!