WATERLOO — Competing as a mountain biker for the CamRock Composite team is more than a literal balancing act for athletes in the area.
Though it isn’t a WIAA sanctioned sport, mountain biking is a competitive club with student athletes from Cambridge, Lake Mills, Deerfield, Monona Grove and McFarland.
CamRock competes in the Wisconsin Project League of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association, which has leagues in 30 states, including two in California.
On October 27, Trek Trails in Waterloo hosted the fourth annual Wisconsin state championship.
“CamRock competes as a combination team with those schools and the goal is to have the numbers grow in each of those schools so that they can compete on their own,” said Kathy Mock, who started the Wisconsin League and CamRock Composite in 2013. Mock since has focused solely on being the league director for Wisconsin. “As soon as they get five high schoolers, they become their own team. When you look right now, out of the CamRock Composite team, the Cambridge and Lake Mills teams score separate.”
At the state championship, Lake Mills scored 3,154 points took fourth place out of 18 schools in Division 1. Madison West won the event with 3,718 points.
In Division 2, Marquette University School won the event with 2,020 points and Cambridge took 11th place out of 25 teams. Cambridge scored 1,765 points.
Raife Davies and Quentin Saylor each led Lake Mills in the JV III boys races. Davies finished his three laps in 1 hour, 12 minutes, 59.3 seconds to earn a sixth-place finish. Saylor was two spots behind him in a time of 1:13:55.43.
Rounding out the top six for Lake Mills was Gracelyn Smith (58:27.1), who took fourth place in the JV II girls race; Dillon Koester (53:58.39), who took 16th place in the JV II boys race; Sahara Walker (1:33:45.2), who took 24th place in the JV II girls race; and Preston Kern, who finished in 29th place in the JV II boys race.
Kern and Koester each were members of the state qualifying Lake Mills boys soccer team. Saylor was named the most valuable runner for the Lake Mills boys cross country team as well as the most improved mountain biker. While two extra practices that have an emphasis on endurance training each week might seem excessive for most, Saylor downplayed the challenge.
“Mountain biking is just a twice-a-week thing. I put most of my focus on running and a lot of that fitness transfers to biking,” Saylor said. “Since the type of bike racing we’re doing doesn’t need a ton of technique. If we were racing downhill, I would need a lot more time on the bike and it would be a lot tougher to balance. I could use more time on the bike, but I think I had a pretty good balance this year.”
Effectively, competing in both serves as cross-training that pays off throughout the season.
In contrast, the top of the Cambridge lineup has cycling-focused Eric Haas and Emory Hutchens, who was the lone competitor in the varsity race, which consists of four laps on the course. Hutchens, a senior, took 13th place in a time of 1:33:19.86.
Haas, a junior, competed in the JV III race and finished it in a time of 1:13:43.32.
Earlier in the season, the Cambridge team had Jonathan Jones as a rider, but an injury concluded his season with the mountain biking team and with the Deerfield/Cambridge cross country team, which eventually made a trip to the state meet.
“With mountain biking, it’s not as time consuming because they aren’t playing as many game and practicing as much (as soccer),” said cross country coach Matt Polzin, who had a pair of runners also competing in soccer. “It was just an unfortunate situation this season where (Jones) got hurt. That could happen anywhere. It could happen with a single-sport athlete. He had handled it well and did handle it well in the past.”
Zach Huffman and Austin Trewyn-Colvin were two of the top three Cambridge/Deerfield cross country runners — both played soccer this fall too. Huffman indicated he and Trewyn-Colvin took time to balance the training, but the ninth-place finish at state indicates they adequately found the balance.
“For Zach and Austin were probably the two where it seemed like they were run down, but at the end of the year, it was kind of something we were able to joke about us being worried because they ran really well at the end of the year,” Polzin said. “Things came together and if you look at how well they did, it must mean that we did manage their workload well. …
“As an AD, I love it. I want the kids to be involved. As a coach, I worry about them getting enough rest. But we have kids in our school (Deerfield) who aren’t competing in anything, so I have to be happy whenever we have kids being active.”
The amount of training for each rider varies depending upon availability and other commitments. For the CamRock Composite team the primary goal isn’t winning events like the state tournament or the other four series that serve as a prelude to the state meet; instead the goal is to nurture a lifelong commitment to cycling.
“My favorite part is that it’s the kids who you don’t expect to be involved in it,” said Lake Mills coach Dave Karlovich, who is in his sixth year coaching with CamRock. “Maybe they won’t be top-notch racers, that’s not their goal, but I think biking has changed their life for the good. You see their confidence grow and it gives them a chance to do something new. It improves their skills and those kids impress me more than anything. And we hope it’s something that they carry with them and they continue to do because really anybody can do it.”