Moun­tain bik­ers com­pete in first NICA race of sea­son

Siloam Springs Herald Leader - - SPORTS - Chip Souza

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.

Char­lie Kaijo / NWA Demo­crat-Gazette

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.

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