The Thompson High School Mountain Bike Team picked up speed this year by placing third in their division for the state.
In its inaugural year for a team, athletes from Thompson competed in the Alabama NICA (National Interscholastic Cycling Association) league.
Coach Lennie Moon said the team is an offshoot of the former Shelby County Composite mountain bike team, which had been competing since 2015.
Moon said the school has seen a big interest in the sport.
“When we started in 2021, we brought just four returning Thompson High School student athletes from the Shelby County Composite team, but we raced the season with 25 athletes,” Moon said.
Generally, students practice two to three days a week, but they are encouraged to ride as much as they can.
“Our races are at trail systems all over the state, but locally we ride/practice at Oak Mountain State Park, Tannehill State Park, Cahaba River Park, even Veterans Park and the Thompson parking lot,” Moon said.
Currently, the team consists of grades 6-12 with both boys and girls participating.
“The basics are a mountain bike in good working order, helmet and water bottles,” Moon said. “As athletes progress and improve, many decide to upgrade some items. At the beginning of the season, we are open to any skill level. Many of our riders this year had never ridden a bike on a trail before. We teach all the beginning skills in the first few practices. If someone wants to join mid-season, we ask that they have some experience already. Everybody races if they want to; no one sits on the bench.”
According to Moon, the appeal for those interested in mountain biking is largely due to the sense of freedom riding a bike provides.
“We get to do our sport in nature,” Moon said. “The sense of accomplishment from completing a difficult race, no matter what the result. Friendship and camaraderie between competitors that you don’t find in many other sports, and speed.”
Moon said many trails are located close to Alabaster, including both Oak Mountain and Cahaba River Park.
“Our main goal is to get more kids on bikes,” Moon said. “We hope they find a healthy, lifelong sport that will provide joy, fun and friendships. We promote the NICA values: fun, inclusivity, equity, respect and community.”
There are 38 teams that race in the Alabama league with more than 600 athletes.
Practices begin mid-November, and race season begins at the end of February and continues through the beginning of May.
“Mountain biking is a collegiate and Olympic sport,” Moon said. “Many athletes graduate high school and go on to race in college. Some at the pro level as well. Kate Courtney, a NICA alum, was the 2018 World Champion and 2019 World Cup Champion.”
For more information about Thompson’s team, visit Facebook at Thompson High School Mtb or on Instagram at Thompsonhsmtb.
Additional information about the sport can be found by visiting nationalmtb.org or alabamamtb.org.