A new team takes to the trailsNew District 196 mountain bike team gets kids out and riding
By: Nathan Hansen, Rosemount Town Pages
On a narrow dirt trail winding through a quiet suburban woods the members of the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School District mountain bike team are getting in some early-season miles. They pedal through switchbacks and roll down hills, only to stand up out of the saddle for a burst of power to get up a short, steep rise.
That, at least, is what you imagine when they zip past. Mountain biking, it turns out, isn’t much of a spectator sport when you’re dressed for a day at the office.
Visibility issues aside, things seem to be going well for the team, which like the Minnesota High School Cycling League in which it competes is in its first year. Its 21 members include some students who have been riding for years and have part-time jobs in bike shops and others who bought their first mountain bike when they joined the team. The riders will compete against 14 other teams in a series of races that starts Sept. 9 in Inver Grove Heights and wraps up Oct. 28 at Buck Hill in Burnsville.
Mark Parr, the district’s secondary education director and a biker himself, encouraged some of the district’s teachers to start the team. Nick Pettis, one of the team’s coaches, said he saw an opportunity to get kids outside and moving.
“Physical education in schools is gradually declining,” Pettis said. “By high school you might only be attending a physical education class every other day. Some kids don’t gravitate toward ball and stick sports.
“This is a thrill, like video games and things kids like to do, but this is the real thing.”
Pettis and the other coaches have been running team members through practices since early August. Practices have included riding the trails at Lebanon Hills Park in Eagan and Salem Hills Park in Inver Grove Heights as well as what Pettis called dryland training – circling a parking lot island to master turning, for example, or learning to roll over rocks and sticks in the parking lot at the district’s School of Environmental Studies.
Because the District 196 team has four high schools to draw from it is one of the largest teams in the league. There were 50 students at a spring introduction meeting, but not all came back in the fall.
Those who followed through seem to be enjoying themselves, though.
Charlie DeWitt was a casual mountain biker before he signed up for the team. Now he’s learning about what it takes to compete.
“The fact it’s organized makes it even better,” he said.
Erik Brekke has been mountain biking since fourth grade and has done a couple of races. He likes having people to ride with on a regular basis.
“Not a lot of my friends from school mountain bike, so it’s nice to meet people who do,” he said. “You feel a lot more safe knowing there’s someone behind you if you fall.”
Brothers Trevor and Tanner Bartko are the only Rosemount High School students on the team. Trevor, 16, will be a junior in the fall and Tanner, 14, will be a freshman. Their mom pushed them to sign up after seeing a notice on the Scott Highlands Middle School web page.
Both of the brothers are on the beginner end of the experience range. They had bikes at home but had to get mountain bikes before they could hit the trail.
So far, the brothers have different opinions of the team. Trevor has been having fun, but Tanner didn’t seem excited to be at a practice last week. He’s not a fan of the woods, he said. He’d rather be home playing Xbox games.
But Sarah Bartko said by the end of practice Tanner is usually happy he’s participated.
“It just feels like I did something good instead of video games,” he said.
A few minutes later, after a few laps of the parking lot, he offered another assessment.
“You know what?” he said. “I guess I like it.”