Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy, Eagle Valley High School go 1-2 at state mountain biking championships
Eagle County’s high school mountain bikers wrapped up their most successful season to date on Sunday, Oct. 21, as Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy and Eagle Valley High School finished one-two in Division 3.
Battle Mountain High School, a Division 2 team, continued its streak of being the best in the conference, but in beating out all the other teams in the north conference, Battle Mountain still finished fourth overall as the teams from the talented south conference swept the top three spots.
The state championship races took place in Durango, a new venue for this year.
Program Director Dan Weiland, in a reversal of the expectation, said being on the road suited the team better than the comforts of home.
“I think we were better than normal,” Weiland said. “The kids had a ton of fun, the courses were awesome.”
The course was designed exclusively for the state championship event, so locals from the area may not have had as much of an advantage as you might assume, Weiland said.
“It was unbelievable — basically just our own spot — our own trails, our own parking lot, our own start-finish area,” Weiland said.
Coach Miles Gentry said the team had been training for just such a course.
“We’re used to courses with technical climbs, this course was a flat, fast speed, high-paced course,” Gentry said. “Everybody went out there and crushed.”
The Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy, Eagle Valley and Battle Mountain high school teams consider themselves one team, but according to league rules, schools that have more than five kids participating must form their own team. Athletes from Vail Mountain School, Vail Christian and Red Canyon also participate as members of the VSSA, Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley teams, respectively.
Many of the athletes participate in on-snow sports during the winter, especially Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy which has athletes from alpine, freestyle and Nordic skiing on the mountain biking team.
Bayli McSpadden, an alpine ski racer hoping to qualify for the elite 7 Nations race in 2019, had to skip the Colorado High School Cycling League conference championships Oct. 6 so she could attend a training camp in Austria.
McSpadden is a sophomore at Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy and hopes to make it to the World Cup level in both skiing and mountain biking.
The Colorado High School Cycling League has freshman, sophomore, junior varsity and varsity categories; with racers from all categories scoring points toward the overall at the state titles.
After riding well as a freshman, McSpadden qualified to race in the junior varsity division in her sophomore year.
McSpadden started the mountain biking season finishing first, second and third in the first three races. After the strong start to the mountain biking season, she decided she would best serve her goals by skipping the conference championships to attend the ski camp.
McSpadden’s target race, the 7 Nations, is only available to athletes ages 14 and 15, and is regarded as one of the best ways to make it onto the U.S. Ski Team.
Athletes reach the 7 Nations race by qualifying through the U.S. races known as the National Performance Series. Athletes reach the National Performance Series by skiing well at U.S. Junior Nationals, which must be reached through skiing well at U.S. Regionals.
With that process coming soon, McSpadden saw that she could attend the ski camp and still make it back in time for the mountain biking state championships, so she made the decision to ski.
“I knew I would only have three days to prepare for (the state championships), so I came back expecting that,” she said.
After being away from her bike for two weeks, McSpadden finished fourth in the junior varsity division on Sunday.
She said she was happy with the result, all things considered.
“I think if I had eaten better I would have had more of a chance at the podium,” she said. “I also had a little bit of jet lag which came into effect, being gone for two weeks. But there’s always next year.”
McSpadden’s strong results this season have qualified her to race on the varsity team as a junior next year.
Gentry said having McSpadden at the state championship was probably the difference between Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy taking first or second. McSpadden said with the second place team being her teammates at Eagle Valley High School, she would have been happy with either outcome.
“I just love our team,” she said.