By Jesse Poore, “Coach Jesse”
Another successful youth mountain bike season is in the books for the Lancaster Composite Mountain Bike Team. It has been a continual whirlwind of activity and would be impossible to adequately summarize. The team’s social media content is provided through Facebook and Instagram which are chock-full of the team’s accomplishments and shenanigans throughout the year. What started with an open call for coaches in February, culminated with 28 student athletes, 11 certified coaches, 14 guest coach appearances, 6 preseason activities, 17 weeks of Thursday practices, 4 race weekends, and just shy of countless moments of personal and team growth. The team celebrated many individual and team accomplishments including the overall series championship, JV1 Boys Leader (Jamison Hoffman – Malcolm), and JV1 Girls Leader (Audrey Saksena – Lincoln East).
Lancaster Composite Mountain Bike Team finished the 2022 season as Nebraska Interscholastic Cycling League series champions.
So, what stands out about this season? For Coach Jesse, it’s the confirmation that youth cycling, community, and competition all have a lot of runway to grow in Lincoln. Our area has a great history and culture of cycling for recreation and for racing. “Coming to the cycling community more recently than some, it is clear that there is a history here of cycling and passionate cyclists. If we don’t capture the next generation of cyclists by pouring time and effort into their growth as humans that ride bicycles, it would be a lost opportunity.” Coach Whitney saw that as well and celebrated, “kids trying hard things and bouncing back from failing.” She believes there has been power in setting individual goals and hearing from so many accomplished guest coaches such as Erick Cedeño, Amber Neben, John Borstelmann, and Claire Reinert. Coach Yun respects the continual growth of an inclusive culture by the team athletes, coaches, parents, and the community. Community support and new friendships are what stood out to new coach, Erik Petersen. A trend we hope to see continue growing in 2023.
Coaches Whitney Drahota and Sofia Gibson spent time each race weekend working with the female athletes, making sure to listen and to reflect back what their goals were, celebrating their accomplishments and hearing them support each other.
More than half of the Lancaster Composite athletes were new for 2022, a positive trend for the sport. The continued focus on inclusion, community, and positive sporting behaviors quickly moved newcomers from the edge into the center of all the fun. Although preseason activities began in April and routine practices in July, one 8th grade student named Heaton saw the team riding at Densmore Park in August and decided it looked like something he wanted to try. Unlike many youth sports, the team has no try-outs and no bench. Athletes of all skill levels are welcome to join any time during the season. After the season, we asked Heaton a few questions about his experience.
Heaton and 8th grade teammate Soren (pictured), Ryland, Dominique, and Logan enjoyed a healthy competition and helped each other improve throughout the season.
Was it difficult or easy for you to fit in with the team as a new athlete mid-season? What made it feel that way?
Heaton: “It was easy because the teammates were willing to accept all who joined and were willing to give advice without ridicule. The only difficult thing was overcoming the fear of not placing after the first race. And even then, all my teammates encouraged me to keep trying.”
How has the cycling team been different than your other extracurricular activities?
Heaton: “The bicycle team is more racing and I enjoy racing. I like the idea that I’m competing against myself and other riders while still helping my team.”
From race one through race four, your placements went from 13th to 8th to 2nd and ended with a gutsy 4th place finish in the series championships. What were the keys that helped you improve so quickly and what do you hope to accomplish next season?
Heaton: “I rode my bicycle every day for at least an hour through Wilderness Park and Van Dorn. This allowed to get to know my bike. I am using my Dad’s bike that he bought nearly 30 years ago in college and I love it! I love having an old vintage bike. Practicing with the team every week was very helpful and very enjoyable. Next season, I want to place in every race and I want to encourage more kids to join our team.”
So, what will the 2023 season look like? If it is anything like this season, it will be an amazing journey. We look forward to getting more kids on bikes and you can help make it happen!! Students that will be in grades 6-12 next year are welcome. Information about the 2023 season for athletes and interested coaches is available by email, LCMTBCoach@gmail.com and our website www.LancasterMTB.com.