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Cycling to the maximum: Students learning
the art of mountain biking

Sandra Baird photos
Snohomish Student Mountain Bike Team member Isaiah Ortiz (right, in red) rides at a competition in Roslyn this spring.

SNOHOMISH — Rain, snow, hail, mud and sun. It’s hard to find a condition that this new mountain biking team didn’t practice through.
This spring, Snohomish High School students William Comyns, Isaiah Ortiz and Megan McGee rode together as the Snohomish Student Mountain Bike Team, competing in the Washington Student Cycling League.
The three are all heading into their senior year at SHS this fall.
The team just capped off its inaugural league season in May, completing races in Gig Harbor, Tacoma, Roslyn and the championships at Riverside State Park in Spokane.
At the championships, Ortiz came out victorious in his category, with a first place win in intermediate boys competition.
The league started in 2010, as a nonprofit organization that partners with schools and community groups to create cycling opportunities for students.
There are more than 400 students in the league, and Snohomish’s burgeoning team is a first for the town.
The Snohomish Student Mountain Bike Team is made up of all Panthers right now, but it is a composite team, meaning team members can hail not only from Snoho-mish, but schools in Everett and Monroe as well. The riders can come from grades 6 through 12.
They were coached by area residents Sandra Baird, Donald Heirman, Dominic D’Angelo III, Gary Buckus, Paul Comyns and Micah Middleton.
Team member William Comyns was approached by a coach when he was working at the Snohomish Bike Shop. He decided to join because it sounded fun. His dad was the one who originally got him into bikes as a kid.
According to William Comyns, practices had a bit of a bumpy start. “It was interesting weather, the first few rides ended up being in snow,” he laughed. 
In terms of the races, he explained that, “you start out in a big pack... you ride about five miles up and down the hills … It’s like cross country running but with mountain biking.”
Comyns’ favorite part of the season was practicing at Lord Hill Park, where he learned a lot about the history of the
park from coach Donald Heirman.
Practicing together also created a bond within the team, William Comyns said, and boy did they practice. They rode more than 650
miles in practice for the league.
“We’re a lot closer now than we were at the beginning of the year,” he said.
Coach Baird has been mountain biking since high school, and eventually got into racing, taking a pause after having her son. She wanted to get back into the sport, and thought it would be fun to bring a team together. Baird wanted to share what a great sport mountain biking is.
“We have a lot of great areas around here,” Baird said about places to practice. These areas include Lord Hill Park, the Paradise Valley Trails and the Centennial Trail, to name a few.


From left to right: Paul Comyns, William Comyns, Megan McGee, Sandra Baird, Dominic D’Angelo and Donald Heirman, with Isaiah Ortiz lying down in the front.

“I watched the kids gain experience and confidence,” Baird said of coaching the team this year. “The confidence building was amazing.”
Baird was happy to see her team grow closer to each other, as well as grow in their mountain biking abilities.
Coach Paul Comyns said there is a place in the league for every level of mountain biker to ride, regardless of their skill set. He also added that with six experienced coaches,
there is always somebody there with the knowledge to help if a rider needs something. Paul Comyns added that
the team learned not only on how to handle their bikes, but also trail etiquette and aspects of taking care of themselves.
“Next year, I would love to grow the team,” said Baird.
Other teams in Washington started small, similar to the Snohomish team, and some teams are now up to 30 to 40 riders, Baird said.
“All families are welcome to the races, it’s very supportive,” she said.
Baird also wants families to know that the league isn’t just for high school students, sixth graders and middle schoolers are welcome to join as well.
This fall, there will be “Meet the League Rides” around the area for people to come learn what Washington Student Cycling League is about. The Snohomish Student
Mountain Bike Team will also be holding a fundraising car wash at the Snohomish Les Schwab on Avenue D this September.
For more information on the Snohomish Student Mountain Bike Team, contact Baird at snohomishcycling@gmail.com.
For more information on the Washington Student Cycling League, visit www.washingtonleague.org

 

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