By Paul Lecker
MARSHFIELD — The Marshfield High School club mountain biking team began three years ago and has blossomed into a multiteam enterprise.
After having just six participants in 2015, Marshfield’s team has grown to 25 this season with boys and girls from sixth through 12th grades competing on the middle school, freshman, sophomore, and varsity levels for coaches Brent Benson and Rachel Krentz, both of whom are teachers at Marshfield Middle School.
A parent emailed Benson, a cycling enthusiast, about the idea for a team in the spring of 2015. Benson said he then got the ball rolling, met with school administration, and started the club squad in July of that year. Six students signed up the first year, 16 last season, and now 25 this fall.
“The sport is growing throughout the state,” Benson said. “There were 500 kids and 35 teams last year, and the number is at 670 kids and 49 teams this year. The word is starting to spread, and we’re getting more and more exposure.”
As part of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association that began in 2009, the Wisconsin state mountain bike league is in its fourth year and thriving.
Marshfield is competing in five meets this season. The team has already participated in meets at Minooka Park in Waukesha, Nordic Mountain near Wild Rose, and the Trek headquarters in Waterloo. On Oct. 8 Marshfield finished second among the six Division 1 teams at Hayward. Marshfield has also placed third at two other meets. The Tigers wrap up their season Oct. 22 at Iola.
Sophomores Hoyt Hall, Ben Lawyer, and Mihn Tyler and eighth-grader Lauren Maki have all earned medals for finishing in the top five at different competitions.
“It’s pretty unbelievable to see the kids progress from year to year,” Benson said.
The team begins practice in July, riding two days a week for a few hours each day at Washington Elementary School. Benson said riders start with the basics: going up and down hills and jumping off curbs to learn proper techniques.
Once school begins in late August, the team moves practice out to the Marshfield School Forest and trains for the single- and double-track formats that are seen in the competitions. Single track is where only one bicycle can go down the trail at a time, and double track is when cyclists are side-by-side and can pass.
The tracks are set up with obstacles such as rocks of varying sizes, going up and down hills, and even trees and branches that need to be navigated. Courses vary from 4 to 6 miles and are set up for middle school riders to take about 40 minutes to an hour to complete.
“There are a lot of obstacles to go around or over,” Benson said. “There are rock gardens that they ride, rocks the size of coconuts or pineapples. You have to be able to run fast over them and use good technique so they don’t stop you. Rocks that are 4-6 inches high, trees, ‘S’ curves, hills both climbing and descending, … it’s a challenge.”
Other team members for Marshfield this season are senior Michaela Lawyer; juniors Adam Maki, Ben Baur, Molly Meyers, and Nathan Wirthlin; sophomores Lucas Hoheisel and Alex Montalvo; freshmen Clinton Tompkins, Jacob Justice, and Mason Gustafson; eighth-graders Corbin Krueger, Kason Neinast, and Matt Begotka; seventh-graders Duke Green, Julian Clopton, Nolan Quarne, and Ohm-Alex Trivedi-Ziemba; and sixth-graders Jamie Boero III, Liberty Lewer, Luke Tompkins, and Peter Tompkins.
Paul Lecker is the publisher of MarshfieldAreaSports.com, a contributor to Hub City Times Sports. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.