CottonCrest mountain bikers off to fast startOct 01, 2022 07:43PM ● By Julie Slama
By Julie Slama | [email protected]
In the 11 years Utah Cycling League has offered high school athletes a chance to compete, more Cottonwood-AMES-Intermountain Christian-Hillcrest mountain bikers have joined the composite team, dedicating themselves to year-round training for a four-race season in addition to state.
“We’re bigger every year,” said CottonCrest coach Anthony Stowe. “We have 41 on the team this year and they're having tons of fun.”
This year, the majority, 26 riders, come from Hillcrest. Nine of the student-athletes are seniors.
“We know that the best advertising to get team members is word of mouth, but I’ve been able to snag a couple of girls at freshman orientation night like Josie Paul, who is a team captain and a Hillcrest senior this year. She’s told me several times she’d never even thought about racing on mountain bikes until then,” Stowe said.
Joining Paul as captain is Hillcrest senior Kenna Stowe, who is the first female racing varsity in five years.
“She’s been working really hard because racing varsity is a big deal,” he said.
In her first race, she placed 12th for the team.
The third captain is Hillcrest senior Kolby Butler, who had a goal to improve from JV-A to varsity this year.
“He’s right on the edge to riding varsity. There are four boys that want to move into varsity, but they all have to petition up. They did well last year, but not well enough to automatically qualify. It’s hard because it’s a pretty deep category. Those varsity boys are pulling the same lap times that a professional athlete would, just incredibly fast. On any race day, you can see a plume of dust before you see them. It’s insane,” Stowe said.
In addition to his returners, he’s expecting promise from first-year rider, Intermountain Christian junior Micah Autry.
“He is a rocket ship, but since this is his first year, he was starting somewhere in the middle of the pack in the lowest category, but with his race resume, we were able to petition him up to JV-A. Now he has to prove that he can get into varsity,” Stowe said.
The season began with races in Price and at Snowbasin, which Stowe said the latter is “a climbers’ course; it’s really steep right from the starting line.”
At Price, CottonCrest’s Alex Fisher won the freshman-B race, with Seth Fillmore placing fourth and Graham Carlson, taking fifth.
At Snowbasin, CottonCrest podium finishers in their divisions were Carlson, first; Josie Paul, first; Fisher, second; and Sabrina Miner, fourth place.
In both races, the team finished sixth overall in their division.
CottonCrest was expected to race Sept. 24 in Moab, on a “wide open fast course that has some technical sections on the slickrock,” followed by Oct. 8 race in Vernal, which Stowe described as a “fast-pedaler course.”
“The wonderful thing for Kolby, Porter Bach and Braxton Little is that they're all Hillcrest seniors, and they want to go out having raced in the hardest category. They know they’re not going to win first place, but they want to do hard things. In this day and age, it’s cool to see these kids have that desire, which will help them in life as they move on into the workplace. That's really what I try and instill with these kids. We climb mountains, which is super hard, right? We look at it and ask, how do you make it harder? So, our kids practice on difficult trails in hot weather, and we prepare them for the worst days. We do everything from intervals to hard courses on hot days where there are a couple of trails that are fully exposed to the sun and they have an 800- or 900-foot climb in full sun, so they have to learn how to hydrate and eat properly before practice. Because we train in these conditions, we have a decent balance of aerobic output for Price and Vernal, and we have good climbers, technical riders and technical defenders for Snowbird and Moab.”
Preparing them for the races also means anything from mental toughness to bike repair.
“When I send my athletes out, they’re gone, sometimes as much as four miles away. When they’re out there, they're out there, and that can be intimidating for a lot of kids. That’s what this sport is all about — teaching them how to work hard, teaching them sustainability, teaching them how to take care of themselves,” Stowe said.
State is Oct. 21-22 in St. George.
“The St. George course is a balance of all of the courses,” said Stowe who anticipates taking about 40% of his team to the championships. “You have half of the course that is wide open, smooth, easy trail, where you can put down the power and sustain it, and you’ll fly. The first half though is really difficult because you start out fast and you get right into this really rough terrain, so you need good technical skill. It’s the perfect balance of speed and technical prowess on the bike to test and challenge our riders.”