Mountain biking growing in popularity as team sport in area schools

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT)-- Students from across Madison County, and some from outside county lines, come to Huntsville on Sundays to practice mountain biking.

It's in several area schools as a new team sport through NICA, the National Interscholastic Cycling Association.  An Alabama league was announced last April, and north Alabama is starting to get in on the action.

Buckhorn High and Middle Schools already support a team, and a Huntsville composite team consists of students from other parts of Madison County.

They work on cornering, endurance, and learning about safety when they meet as a unit. They also do conditioning and workouts during the week.

WHNT News 19 first reported about this last October, when the teams were just beginning to form.

"There's kids that were wobbly on a bike and now they're just performing great, going over jumps, doing all kinds of stuff," said Patty Costello, Team Director for both teams.

"It's getting them active," added Grace Ragland, Skills Coach. "And being active is promoting wellness."

Ragland helped bring these teams to Madison County. She's hoping to see participation double within the next year, and be all over Huntsville schools within the next 10.

The students will compete in races this spring. The first one is in March.  That means they have to use the winter months to train.

This kind of preparation couldn't be possible without help from the community, said Ragland.

"People have donated bikes, we're having to train in the winter so they're donating clothing," she said.

Parents and experienced riders are also getting involved.

It's already grown from its inception, when just a few students were signed up. New students are coming to almost every practice, and the group is thankful for the increasing interest. They're excited to see the league grow and increase mountain bike competition here in north Alabama.