Herriman Mountain Bike Team athletes build a strong community through cyclingApr 30, 2022 10:54AM ● By Peri Kinder
Herriman High School mountain bike racer, Emily Preece, said learning how to ride and be part of the team has changed her life. (Photos courtesy of Brandon Preece)
By Peri Kinder | [email protected]
For Emily Preece, mountain biking seemed grueling. She had no desire to tackle steep climbs and rocky trails on a bike. But her father, Brandon Preece, an experienced mountain biker, and the team director for the Herriman Mountain Bike Team, finally convinced Emily to give it a shot.
“I’ve never been really physically active,” she said. “The uphill riding totally killed me. I complained all the way.”
But she kept at it and now, two years later, she’s a team captain.
“It was hard for her, really hard for her,” Brandon Preece said. “But she found friends she started to get to know and qualified for state in her second year of mountain biking. It’s okay for things to be hard but cycling teaches you some things to help you handle the hard things.”
The Herriman Mountain Bike Team is made up of riders (of all skill levels) and coaches from Herriman High School as well as junior high schools within the high school’s boundaries. Preece said being on the team is not about competition, it’s about mental and physical growth.
When Emily, a 17-year-old junior at HHS, first started riding, she had dedicated trainers helping her learn how to tackle obstacles, both on the trail and in her mind. She practiced in a rock garden where she had to ride across challenging terrain.
“It not only taught me how to ride over the rocks and trust my bike, it helped me mentally realize I could do it,” she said. “You don’t have to know how to ride a bike on the mountain before joining the team. Anyone can mountain bike. It’s one of the most uplifting sports you can do. There’s no rivalry. We’re all just helping each other.”
Since 2009, the Herriman Mountain Bike Team has worked with riders under the guidance of the
National Interscholastic Cycling Association, which creates mountain biking programs for students across the country.
Brandon Preece has been with the team for four years and has worked with every level of biker, from first-time riders to competitive varsity cyclists. He finds there are opportunities for every person on the team to improve, compete and participate in riding groups based on their skills, abilities and goals.
“NICA has five core principles: strong body, strong mind, strong character, inclusivity and equality,” Preece said. “We strive to instill those principles in our riders. We’re teaching them to do something hard. I can guarantee that they won’t love it the first few practices if they’ve never biked. But they’ll learn to love it and make friends and come back for a second season.”
Emily said joining the team changed her life. It can be intimidating to train with the boys on the team, but she has made long-lasting connections through NICA’s Girls Riding Together program. Today, girls make up only 20% of mountain biking athletes. GRT’s goal is to get more girls on bikes by promoting confidence and self-esteem, and creating a safe environment for young women to succeed.
Emily set a goal to race JV-A in the upcoming season, a step just below varsity riders. “I never saw myself racing JV-A,” she said. “Making friends on the team was one of the biggest things that made me decide to do it. We all push each other to be better. We get together and hang out. It helps so much to know you’re not the only girl on the team.”
Brandon Preece said mountain biking is a sport people can enjoy as individuals, teams and families, and hopes more people are inspired to try it out.
“I ride with the kids and we need an army of parents to make this league run,” he said. “I’m hoping in 10 years to still be mountain biking with my kids. There are few lifelong sports, but cycling is one of those things you can do for a lifetime.”