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Mountain Biking Team Travels Old Trails

Caroline Lund, Staff Writer

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This year, the overgrown cross-country trail behind Western has taken on a new identity. Footprints have disappeared and tire marks now cover the surface of the path. The new mountain biking team has finally put the forgotten trail to use.

The Miller School started a youth mountain biking league in Virginia eight years ago, and since then, they have had numerous students go on to compete professionally and even travel to the Olympics. This has brought attention to the sport, encouraging other schools in the area to start teams of their own.

Three new schools started mountain biking club teams this year: Albemarle, CHS, and Western. Western coach John Compton explains, “Anyone can join- all you need is a bike and the right gear.”

Although new mountain bikes are quite expensive, there are various places in the area that sell used bikes for good prices, including Blue Ridge School and Miller.

The Western mountain biking team currently has thirteen members, with one senior, three girls, and a handful of underclassmen. Similar to cross country, varsity and JV teams are based on ability, and students compete in heats that best match their skill level. For example, Compton’s daughter (Sydney Compton) is currently a freshman at Western and leads the team as one of the fastest bikers and competes in varsity races.

Practices are held two to three times a week and there are four meets this fall. Races are often huge events, with hundreds of participants and over twenty-five competing schools. However, most competitors are males. Sophomore Anna Eldridge says there were only about forty girls at their first meet. Compared to boys, who sometimes compete in heats larger than forty, the number of female bikers is remarkably small.

“I had never biked before, but my family actually lives right next to the Comptons,” says Eldridge. One thing led to the next, and she found herself buying a bike and attending the summer practices.

According to Coach Compton, it takes about a year to get used to the bike and learning how to adjust gear. However, those who stick with it will quickly realize how rewarding the sport is. Mountain biking is truly a unique experience, and it’s important to remember that every uphill climb comes with an exhilarating downhill ride.

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