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The City Journals

CottonCrest mountain bike team members increase, competes in first races during pandemic

Oct 21, 2020 11:05AM ● By Julie Slama

Rachel Arlen, snagged 29th place in the beginning girls race, on Aug. 29 at Powder Mountain. (Photo courtesy of David Butler)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

In the world of mountain biking, Utah offers some of the best rides in the country.

That’s according to coach Tony Stowe, who is coaching CottonCrest, a composite of athletes from Cottonwood High, Hillcrest High and AMES.

“It’s amazing, the best in the country,” he said. “We have arid desert and deep forest. Utahns are outdoorsy so this is a sport that parents can share with their kids. It’s the coolest thing ever.”

While mountain biking is not a Utah High School Activities Association-sanctioned sport, the league is nine years old and Utah has seen a 300% growth, registering 4,900 athletes to become the largest in the nation, Stowe said. There are 130 teams across the state.

Stowe got his first mountain bike at age 13 and was influenced in the sport from an uncle.

“Mountain biking has a cool community that has a positive influence with kids. It’s a healthy sport and a way for families to recreate since it’s very accessible here,” he said. “Parents wish they had this in high school. It’s very different than traditional sports, and it’s a very supportive community.”

Stowe became involved with CottonCrest five years ago when his then Hillcrest son, Kaden, joined the team, coached then by J Liddell, who had a daughter riding from Cottonwood High. 

“Hillcrest only had three athletes then,” he said. “Now, we have 31, with 40% of the team being girls.”

Stowe’s daughter, Kenna, now is riding on the team and he transitioned from being supportive parent to coach.

“I’d really like to see our girls become 50% of the team. I’ve seen what it has done for my daughter from being timid to gaining courage, learning responsibility and having a competitive edge,” Stowe said.

The team also includes an AMES boy, who is amongst the fastest on the team, and five Cottonwood High cyclists, including one of the fastest JV A girls in the region. Each school has a student captain and experienced riders help teach new riders how to prepare for race day.

As the team was gearing up for its first race Aug. 29 at Powder Mountain, Stowe said the preseason training was a bit different than in years past in response to COVID-19 with safety precautions including symptom checks, temperature checks, face coverings, sanitization and more.

“Typically, we’ll start up in April and go right through October, but not this year. We waited until June for our official practices and jumped in with three times per week,” he said, saying they follow UHSAA with their practice schedule.

The team’s summer workouts included skills, drills and endurance rides, such as a two-hour 2,400-foot vertical ride that would amount to 16 miles for some of the team’s fastest riders or 8 miles for others. This helped to prepare riders for the 5.5- to 21-mile race, depending on their race level, Stowe said.

“With our races, typically there can be 1,000 to 1,200 athletes and thousands of spectators, but now it will be very different at the venue. We may just be able to arrive to warm up, check the bike, race and leave 15 to 20 minutes after the race,” he said. “Our girls are very supportive of each other, cheering each other on and wanting everyone to have a good race. Our boys are competitive, wanting to beat each other.”

At Powder Mountain, Anna Hinks finished eighth, Sophia Arlen finished 27th, and Skye Robinson finished 63rd in the beginner girls category. In freshmen races, Camden Lampshire finished 30th for the boys B and Clara Stephens finished 40th for the girls ahead of teammate Sabrina Miner. In JV boys A, Connor McMillan placed 12th, Matt Hinks finished 17th, and Logan Messenger snagged 21st place. Rachel Arlen took 29th in the girls JV A race. In JV boys B, Justice Robinson took sixth, Logan Rolfson was 22nd and Zack Augade placed 31st. In girls JV B, Hiley Campbell was 16th , Josie Paul placed 24th and Emily Villanueva finished 53rd. In the JV C race, Elliot Meyer was third, Braxton Little finished sixth, Porter Bach was 12th, Kolby Butler was 27th, Sam Fisher grabbed 30th and Parker Mealey finished the ride in 37th place.

The team also raced Sept. 12 in Price, taking sixth place overall in division 2, which is the smaller team division.

Individually, beginner girls Anna Hinks finished 22nd, Sophia Arlen, 43rd and Skye Robinson, 60th. Freshman boys B had a 19th-place showing from Jacob Arens and 37th from Camden Lampshire. Freshman girls were led by Keian Flake, who finished 27th, two places later was Clara Stephens and Sabrina Miner was 46th. JV Boys A finishes include Connor McMillan, eighth; Matt Hinks, 11th; Jackson Fairbourn, 23rd; Justice Robinson, 24th; and Elliot Meyer, 25th. Rachel Arlen finished 28th in JV A girls. In JV B boys, Logan Rolfson finished 12th; Porter Bach, 19th; Braxton Little, 20th; and Zack Augade, 27th. In JV B girls, Hiley Campbell placed 17th; Josie Paul, 21st; Kenna Stowe, 32nd; Emily Villanueva, 45th; and Georgia Barrus, 46th. In the JV C race, Kolby Butler was 11th; Sam Fisher, 30th; and Parker Mealey, 40th.

The CottonCrest team also is scheduled Sept. 26 at Vernal before competing Oct. 10 for the regional title. The state race is set for Oct. 23-24 in St. George.