Mountain bikers compete in first NICA race of season
More than 200 young mountain bikers raced down rocky hills, zipped around tight corners and pedaled up dirt hills in the first Arkansas Interscholastic Cycling League race of the 2017 season Sunday at Sager Creek Trail.
Teams of cyclists from across the state competed in various age divisions from sixth grade through varsity level. A large number of riders competed for their high school teams, while others joined to form composite teams of riders from several schools, like the Rogers Rams. The Rams are composed of riders from Rogers, but the team is not linked to any particular school.
Kathryn Kelley, an eighthgrader from Lingle Middle School, is in her second season of competing in the state cycling league. She said she first heard about the program during a school announcement. She competes with the Rams team.
“I heard about it and I said ‘Oh, I should try that,’” she said. “I used to do BMX when I was a lot younger, so I saw this as an opportunity
to get back into biking.”
Alan Ley, one of the directors for the Arkansas league, said around 230 cyclists were entered in Sunday’s race, and expects more to jump in as the season progresses toward the November state championships in Eureka Springs.
The league holds five events each season over a two-month period. The next event will be Sept. 24 at Old Post Trail in Russellville. There are events scheduled for Bentonville, Barling, and the final event of the season at Lake Leatherwood in Eureka Springs.
“This is a great kickoff to the season here in Siloam Springs,” Ley said. “The venue is just perfect. We have lots of area for people to park, we have lots of area for the tents and the kids are all mingling together. I talked to some grandparents who told me they drove six hours just to see their grand kid race.”
The vast open space at Sager Creek Trail was a rainbow color of tents, recreational vehicles and cyclists in custom jerseys with their team names, many in school colors.
Jacob Smithpeters, a sophomore at Haas Hall Academy, won the varsity boys division on Sunday in 1 hour, 21 minutes, 9.98 seconds to earn 575 points toward the overall state title. Smithpeters turned in splits of 15:47, 16:30, 16:22 and 16:14 to win the division by more than four minutes.
In the junior varsity girls, junior Cate Mertins, also of Haas Hall Academy, cruised to the first place win in 59:43.57. Her three lap splits were 19:02, 20:06 and 20:34 to win her division by more than 10 minutes. There were no varsity girls competitors.
Carter Ferguson of Bentonville High, a junior, was the junior varsity champion in 1:09.39.68 in a razor-close finish over Alex McKinstry of the Rogers All Mountain Shredders, who clocked a 1:10.12.10.
Bentonville High won the overall team title with 2,182 points, just ahead of Bentonville West with 2,012. Rogers All Mountain Shredders were third with 1,976 and the Springdale High/Har-Ber combo team placed fourth.
Cate Mertins of Haas Hall Academy crosses the finish line during the girls JV race at the John Brown University Sager Creek Trail in Siloam Springs on Sept. 10. The first race of the 2017 Arkansas NICA Season took place at Sager Creek Trail on the campus of John Brown University.