by Betsy Helfand, Murphy News Service
Area athletes part of new league’s growth .
After the combined team of Burnsville-Lakeville North-Lakeville South won the inaugural boys/girls team Minnesota High School Cycling League championship in 2012, the league kicked off its second season Sept. 8 in Inver Grove Heights with more than 300 racers.
That is almost double the number of bikers from last season.
“I think we started off on a really good note this year with our first race,” league director Gary Sjoquist said.
One key difference from last year is that results are now tracked via chips, as opposed to manually last season.
Sjoquist said the timing system took a little bit longer than he would have liked, but aside from a few minor glitches, there was little confusion and very few problems.
That isn’t the only thing new to the league this year.
Burnsville and Lakeville North-Lakeville South are no longer on the same squad.
“Cycling introduces teenagers to a lifelong sport that is part of a healthy lifestyle and connects them with the outdoors and the environment,” said Burnsville coach Chris Harvey. “Our team has participated in volunteer trailwork sessions to help build and maintain the local mountain bike trails. Mountain biking also attracts students who don’t fit into a typical ball or stick sport, about 50 percent of my team had not participated in a high school sport until they joined the mountain bike team.”
Representing her school, the Blaze’s Jordan Horner finished first in the varsity girls race with a time of 1 hour, 25 minutes, 20.16 seconds.
Horner accumulated 1,725 points over four races last season to be the top girls finisher overall.
“Like other endurance sports, being a top athlete dedication and the desire to train everyday,” Harvey said. “The athletes like Jordan Horner, the 2012 Minnesota High School Cycling League champion has been training and racing for many years.”
Dakota County dominated the top of the podium in the four-lap girls race with Apple Valley’s Camille Sjoquist in second place.
Carley Endersbe and Libbey Endersbe, of Lakeville North-Lakeville South, finished fourth and fifth, respectively. Caitlin Juvla was sixth for Apple Valley.
The day also included races for junior varsity, sophomore boys, freshman boys and a combined underclassmen girls.
The cycling league launched a series of four races last year with 160 athletes from 15 teams.
This year, there are more bikers, teams and races.
The league will have five races each season and has more than 25 teams participating.
Teams are comprised up of high school students; sometimes multiple high schools combine to form a composite team. Eagan, Eastview and Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan also have teams.
Sjoquist said this jump in participation didn’t come as a surprise to him.
“I figured we’d be growing at a pace like this,” he said. “The kids have fun and the fact that (they’re) racing for (their) high school is kind of unique and that seems to draw all the kids together.”
Four of the races will be at different courses this season, and Sjoquist said the change of venues is helpful in the league’s growth.
“I’m deliberately moving the race courses around the state because it helps drive the development of teams,” he said.
Sjoquist said the league wanted to do a Saturday race just to see what it was like.
That race will be held on Sept. 21 at the Jail Trail in St. Cloud, and will be the second race of the season. Other races this season include Sept. 29 at Hillside Park in Elk River, Oct. 13 at White Tail Ridge in River Falls, Wis., and the final race, the state championship, Oct. 27 in Mankato.
Other area students who placed in the top five in the Sept. 8 races were:
Junior varsity girls: 4. Nicole Jensen, Lakeville North-Lakeville South; 5. Kalli Opsal, Lakeville North-Lakeville South
Junior varsity boys: 2. Erik Brekke, Eastview High School; 3. Van Carlson, Apple Valley High School
Freshman/sophomore girls: 4. Taylor Horner, Burnsville High School
Freshman boys: 2. Luke Doolittle, Eastview High School
Betsy Helfand is studying journalism at the University of Minnesota. Tad Johnson contributed to this story.