SALT LAKE CITY — The third season of the Utah High School Cycling League, one of the largest and fastest-growing in the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA), kicks off this week in Midway. Notably, the first event on its calendar is its debut Junior Development race (grades 7-8) Friday, Sept. 5, at Soldier Hollow, followed the next day with the coed high school athletes racing at the same location.
"We're growing again," said Utah High School Cycling League Executive Director Lori Harward. "This year, we're piloting a Junior Development program to introduce middle school students to mountain biking, with an emphasis on skills, fun and fitness."
The Utah League is NICA's largest first-year and largest second-year league, having nearly doubled in size from 2012 to 2013, and concluding its 2013 season with 641 student athletes registered with 43 teams. At the start of this season, there are close to 850 student athletes on 51 teams, and the Junior Development program has an additional 179 riders.
To accommodate growth, the league has added additional divisions and waves to its five 2014 races and selected new courses or venues for each of them. Two of its five race venues are new this year: Nordic Valley and St. George. Round Valley, Snowbasin and Soldier Hollow are repeat venues that will feature new courses.
The state championships and awards banquet are scheduled on Oct. 25 in St. George, a part of the state where Harward hopes to foster the continued, unprecedented growth of the league.
"Once again, we're poised for our biggest year ever," said Harward. "Thanks to the enthusiasm and dedication of our student athletes, volunteers and donors, it's going to be a phenomenal season of racing, camaraderie and fun."
The full schedule for 2014 is:
Junior Development races (7th-8th grades)
Sept. 5 — Race 1 in Soldier Hollow
Oct. 3 — Race 2 in Round Valley
High school races (9th-12th grades)
Sept. 6 — Race 1 in Soldier Hollow
Sept. 20 — Race 2 in Nordic Valley (new venue)
Oct. 4 — Race 3 in Round Valley
Oct. 11 — Race 4 in Snowbasin
Oct. 25 — Race 5 in St. George, state championships (new venue)
For more information about the Utah High School Cycling Association, visit www.utahmtb.org.