For high schoolers in the Fresno area, a school mountain biking team might be the last thing you’d ever imagine offered on campus.
That isn’t the case anymore.
It all began when Central East High teacher and coach Jason Boyd wanted to offer the option of mountain biking to local youth.
When Boyd met Brandon Dorman of Tri-This Inc., a local nonprofit that organized youth triathlons, the two batted around some ideas that eventually led to the creation of the team.
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“Fresno has an awesome adult riding community, and I always noticed that,” Boyd said.
“I had an interest in a high school mountain biking club but never dreamed of it being a team until I found out there was a high school league, and it branched from there.
“We dove in and tried it.”
The team began competing in the NorCal High School Cycling League last year and instantly became aware of the sport’s popularity.
More than 800 high schoolers, boys and girls, across 112 teams compete in the statewide league.
Some schools even boast teams of 50 or more.
“It’s amazing how many mountain bikers there are,” said rider Marcos Ventura, a sophomore at Central.
Ventura had never tried mountain biking until he heard about the club at school when he had Boyd as a teacher.
“It looked interesting at first and I really just wanted to try something new,” he said.
“I was scared (at first) because I knew I was going to eventually fall.”
But aside from that, Ventura said riding with the team has been nothing but “amazing.”
So amazing that Ventura and teammates Michael Hoover and Jonathan Gonzalez will compete at the state championships Sunday in Los Olivos.
The team practices two to three times a week at Woodward Park.
Some days they will ride to Millerton Lake or hold weekend practice sessions at the assortment of mountain biking trails in the foothills.
For supplies, the team relies on outside help, using donations of goods and services from Steven’s Bicycles and a handful of other local shops.
Boyd also gets help coaching from local riders Michael Hoover Sr. and Stephen Ray.
To join the Fresno Composite High School Mountain Bike Team, riders must attend any Fresno-area school, Boyd said.
All skill levels and even home-schooled students are welcome.
“It’s all to get more local riders, both boys and girls, on mountain bikes,” Boyd said
As with his teammate Ventura, Gonzalez’s first time on a mountain bike was with the team.
Now in his second year, the junior has improved and even earned the team’s first podium finish after placing fourth at a league race in March.
“This sport teaches you determination and hard work,” Gonzalez said.
“It’s not easy but it’s worth it.”