by John Cardozo, Head Coach, Catawba Ridge Riders; and Elizabeth Duda, Chair, ESMMYC – members of the Bike/Ped Coalition of York County
York County, SC (Aug. 12, 2019) Interscholastic mountain biking is gaining popularity throughout the country – and South Carolina (SC) is no exception. While people have mountain biked for decades, interscholastic mountain bike racing is a new sport. And the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) is bringing it to SC in 2020!
NICA has leagues in 27 states. Over 20,000 student-athletes participate and 10,000 coaches and volunteers manage the teams and events. In SC, eight youth mountain biking teams participate in the North Carolina (NC) and Georgia (GA) NICA Leagues. The NC League, now in its third year, boasts over 36 teams and an average of 400 student-athletes per event. The GA League, in its 5th year, welcomes as many as 800 riders, and holds races from sun up to sun down over an entire weekend. Existing NICA coaches recognized the potential in SC and formed a league committee to start the South Carolina Interscholastic League (SCICL).
Starting Spring 2020, the new SC program will culminate in an annual SCICL Race Series from September through November. Races will be designed for student-athletes grades 6-12. “Starting a team and guiding new riders through skills development and racing has been very rewarding,” explains John Cardozo, Head Coach of the Catawba Ridge Riders, based in Fort Mill, SC. Catawba Ridge Riders participated in the NC Interscholastic Cycling League in Spring 2019 and won several Middle School Division championships.
New NICA teams are being formed throughout SC in anticipation of the new league. “The initial response from the SC biking community has been terrific,” explains Curt Edsall, SCICL League Director. Securing race venues and empowering local cyclists to start youth teams is underway. Informational meetings are being held regionally. The league welcomes coaches, volunteers, and sponsors as the backbone of the program. NICA training programs and background checks ensure new coaches get off to a solid start. Through 2019, SCICL will educate folks on the NICA program, its success regionally, and the need for motivated cyclists to help support development of the next generation of mountain bikers in SC. SCICL officials are meeting with local bike shops, bike clubs, athletic directors and wellness committees in gain further support for the league.
NICA’s mission is: We build strong minds, bodies, character, and communities through cycling. There are no tryouts. Racing is optional, and only part of the program. Trail stewardship, girls-only rides, beginner-through-advanced rider skills development, bike maintenance, and self sufficiency are all key to the student-athlete experience. Of course, camaraderie and friendship often top the list! Participants need a mountain bike, basic riding skills and a desire to improve their skills; NICA leagues often have scholarships that include bikes and reduced entry fees. Parents of youth mountain bikers in SC are encouraged to tune in to team development opportunities.
Further information is on:
SCICL is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
About the Bike/Ped Coalition of York County (@BPCYC)
- Vision – An engaged York County where bicycling and walking are safe, accessible and preferred forms of transportation and recreation
- Mission – To support York County and its communities becoming more bicycle and pedestrian friendly
- Strategy – Educate, advocate, and promote the health, economic, environmental and social benefits of bicycling and walking