The sport of mountain biking has come a long way in Humboldt County in recent years, and now it’s beginning to make its mark in the local high schools.
This past weekend, two prep teams representing the Humboldt MTB Club traveled to Monterey Bay to open the 2019 NorCal high school league schedule, with several outstanding performances.
With so many new racers on hand this season,team director and head coach Sean Robertson now officially has to field two high school teams out of the club, one composite and one representing Arcata High.
The Arcata contingent placed fifth in the Division-II competition, out of 28 schools, while the composite team took first out of 11 teams in the composite division, winning by an impressive 71 points.
“For such a small team to win a race by such a big gap was great,” Robertson said.
The club includes many multiple-sport student athletes from several local schools, including Arcata, McKinleyville, St. Bernard’s and Academy of the Redwoods.
Elizabeth O’Dell had perhaps the most impressive showing for the local contingent, taking first place in the girls JV Division, out of 27 competitors.
Meigan Butler also had a very strong showing in the girls varsity race, placing second, while Vivian Gerstein was fourth in the Sophomore Division.
In the boys sophomore race, Kyle Kroeker placed fourth, while Dillon Earle-Rouse was fifth.
In the JV Division, Tommy Robinson placed eighth overall out of 64 racers.
“We definitely exceeded my expectations,” Robertson said of the performance. “It was amazing.”
The head coach, who was born in South Africa, moved to Humboldt County in the mid 90s and has seen first-hand the evolution of the sport in the area.
“We have fantastic community support here,” he said. “The sport has grown massively. You definitely see a lot more people on the trails now.”
And that increased popularity has been evident at the club, which started out with five racers four years ago and this season will field a record 23.
“We have seen huge growth in that time,” Robertson said.
The team is scheduled to compete at all five races in the NorCal League this season, and like many local teams in every sport, travel is not an option, with the competitions scattered mostly around the Bay Area, and even farther south.
With continued growth of the sport both locally and throughout all of Northern California, the club director is hoping to change that.
“There’s a team in Redding, and there’s a new team in Weaverville, and we’re kind of working long term to getting a race up north,” he said.
The local club will travel for the Granite Bay Grinder in Placer County on March 16.