Fun for all ages

Waunakee Middle Schooler Samuel Anderson pre-rides an adventure race course at Blackhawk Ski Club in Middleton, where one of two weekly practices take place. Looking on in the background is Blackhawk Composite Coach Ryan Bodge.

Waunakee students will have the opportunity to take part in a new co-curricular activity this fall, following the district’s decision to sanction an official mountain-bike club.

School board members recently approved the Waunakee Warriors Mountain Bike Club as a Category C activity for students in grades 6-12, allowing WCSD athletes who compete in the sport an opportunity to do so as ambassadors of the Waunakee school district.

Coach Emily Meier said the club will compete as part of a larger composite team – the Blackhawk Composite – made up of students from Middleton, Cross Plains, Mount Horeb and Barneveld.

“Waunakee student athletes have been participating in it for a while. But it’s never been a school-sponsored activity,” said Meier, a Waunakee Middle School teacher and second-year coach with the composite team. “Now when it comes to the fall, students will be able to compete under the name of Waunakee, under our school district as a Waunakee Warrior.”

Meier said students from the district have been involved with the Blackhawk Composite Team since it began six years ago, but are excited for the chance to compete as athletes of the school district.

One of those students is Waunakee High School senior and multi-sport athlete AJ Beery.

“I’ve been on the team the past two years, and they were honestly the most fun I’ve had in all sports throughout my years in middle school and high school,” Beery said. “It’s also promoted a large sense of leadership, because I joined my junior year. I was already pretty experienced in mountain biking, but there’s a lot of younger guys there that still were learning. So it allowed me to take up a leadership role…and I think that’s really important.”

Beery’s classmate, August Johnson joined the team during his sophomore year of high school. He spoke in favor of the program during a recent co-curricular committee meeting in which the club was being considered by district officials.

“I hadn’t really mountain biked before, and when I went to the first practice, I didn’t know what to expect,” Johnson said of his experience. “But after I got into it, it was a lot of fun and the coaches were really nice. And I just improved throughout my two years on the team.”

Meier noted that self-improvement was a major focus of the program.

“It’s a really interesting sport in that it’s both individual- and team-based,” Meier said. “So you end up getting this great combination of kids being able to push themselves as hard as they want to be pushed, but also with the support of their teammates and coaches and peers.”

The coach said the sport involved effective risk management and that students of all skill levels are welcome to join, adding that she was relatively new to the sport herself.

“I was a complete beginner last year,” Meier said. “And it’s just brought a ton of joy to my life. The other thing about mountain biking is that it’s inclusive. We don’t cut any kids; we don’t turn anybody away. If there is an issue with accessibility, the league will help us manage it. Essentially it’s just a great way for kids from all different athletic abilities and all different ages to join together in a really positive team unit.”

Those interested should visit the club’s website at http://sites.google.com/waunakee.k12.wi.us/waunakeemtb/.

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