On Saturday, Oct. 20, members of the Morgan Mountain Bike Race Team participated in the first-ever Utah High School Cycling League state championships. Seven team members and their coaches traveled to Soldier Hollow in Heber Valley to compete against 24 other Division 2 high school teams in what was the perfect ending to an incredible first year of high school mountain bike racing in Utah.
Perfect weather combined with an excellent race venue set the stage for the first race of the day. All varsity, junior varsity, sophomore and freshman girls lined up for two laps of a roughly six mile course that followed parts of the 2002 Winter Olympic cross country skiing trails. Amber Harvey and Megan McMillan were among almost 40 other girls to compete for the state champion title.
It was obvious that the 13 sophomore girls were there to race judging by the speed in which they took off at the starting line, and Morgan’s Amber Harvey was right there with them. After finishing her two laps, Harvey crossed the line in fifth place – a whole seven minutes in front of the sixth place finisher. Megan McMillan had an equally impressive finish in the freshman girls’ race taking fourth place out of 11 racers. McMillan was only 25 seconds behind the third place finisher who happened to be the series lead racer for the year.
The second race of the day started with the sophomore and freshman boys lining up to take on their two laps. Morgan’s team had four racers in this race: two sophomores and two freshmen. Thirty-five sophomores lined up with Kyler Matthews and Steaten Sego as they prepared to work their way through the numerous ups and downs of the course. With plenty of competition to deal with, Matthews crossed the finish line in 22nd place, while Sego, in his second race ever, finished in 10th place.
Freshmen Carter Bailey and Jeremy Lucas maneuvered into good position at the start of their race alongside 31 others. Bailey was at the tails of the lead racer for most of the race, occasionally taking the lead himself. With family, teammates and friends cheering Bailey on, he finished in second place only 8 seconds behind the leader. Lucas, who encountered some issues during the race, made an incredible comeback from several places back to take fourth place.
Brayden Nielsen, Morgan’s only junior varsity racer, discovered how serious upper classman racing is becoming as he lined up with the largest group of the day. This race included 53 racers competing over nearly 18 miles of non-stop racing. Coming across the line in 9th place, Nielsen was cheered on by teammates in an exciting end to the race season.
At the conclusion of the races, both race day and end of season awards were awarded. The Morgan race team did exceptionally well placing nearly half of their racers in overall podium positions for the season. Megan McMillan placed 4th in overall freshman girls. Amber Harvey placed fourth in overall sophomore girls. In the freshmen boys category, Carter Bailey placed second and Jeremy Lucas placed third and Brayden Nielsen placed 6th in junior varsity boys.
The highlight of the day came when the overall team awards were given for Division 2 high schools. Having done extremely well as a team all season Morgan finished off a great year taking 3rd place overall.
The Morgan mountain bike race team started just over 10 weeks ago with a small, yet dedicated group of high school students. Of the 11 students on the team, only two had any prior race experience. While most achieved individual success regardless of how they placed overall, there was also a huge “team” effort shown by every member. Some gave up vacation time; others a little blood here and there and most gave a whole lot of sweat. For a group of kids to come together and accomplish what they have done says a lot for the character, strength and dedication of all the students involved. To find out more about the Utah High School Cycling League, visit their site at http://www.utahmtb.org. Also see all the action shots of the Morgan mountain bike race team on their facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/MorganRaceTeam