A new league for mountain bikers

Seventh- and eighth-graders from Camas and Washougal join the high school riders

Zach Vergillo rolls through the hills during last season’s Washougal MX Challenge. High school and middle school students can join the new Washington Student Mountain Bike League. For more information, or to register, log on to www.washingtonleague.org.

Like pedals on a bicycle, Ed Fischer and the staff at Camas Bike & Sport understand the importance of youth pumping fresh blood into the heart of their sport.

Mountain biking is more than just a business to them, it’s a lifestyle they love to share with friends and families. As coaches in the brand new Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance’s Washington Student Mountain Bike League, Fischer, his wife Katina, and friends Bill Waring and Dave Webb, help children discover a passion for cycling and teach them to nurture the trails they ride on.

“We want to find young and passionate students who can follow in our footsteps and become not just great riders, but stewards as well,” Fischer said. “High school students are involved in a lot of activities, and they don’t always have the time or the energy to try something new. Younger kids have so much passion, and that’s what we want to tap into.”

In two years, the National Interscholastic Cycling Association sponsored Washington High School Cycling League grew to 22 teams representing 44 different high schools. Although the NICA remains strictly high school based, the Evergreen Alliance also allows seventh- and eighth-graders to join.

Competitions will be one component of this new league. The others will be building leadership skills and helping older participants become mentors for younger riders. The racers will also learn to take care of the trails, forests and environments they ride through.

New Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance Execute Director Lisa Miller said these are great traits to learn at a young age.

“Cycling teaches all of us that goal setting, persistence and tackling one mile at a time can lead to unimaginable achievements,” she said.

Only two teams represented Southwest Washington in the Washington High School League last spring. Those local riders, coaches and volunteers worked together to bring established teams from Olympia and Seattle down for a weekend of racing at the Washougal Motocross Park.

The Columbia River Mashers team of riders from Washougal, Vancouver and Hockinson clinched the state championship trophy. The Clark County Mudslingers of Camas, Washougal and Vancouver, finished first in state in 2011.

Fischer hopes the new opportunities in this league will attract enough Camas and Washougal students to field two separate teams from each school growing side-by-side in friendly competition. He will be giving a group presentation about the league at Washougal High School on Jan. 10.

Registration for the Washington Student Mountain Bike League is available at www.washingtonleague.org. Camas and Washougal students interested in joining should call Camas Bike & Sport at 210-5160. Practices will begin by end of January.