LAS VEGAS, NV (BRAIN)—The National Interscholastic Cycling Association announced yesterday the formation of three new high school mountain biking leagues in Texas, Washington and Minnesota.
Texas and Washington are both project leagues, meaning the leagues are already structured, while Minnesota is an emerging league as its progress is still in the early stages.
“They’ll be leaning on NICA quite a bit to build up the branding of it. They’ll turn to NICA for assistance in creating that road map,” said Gary Boulanger, NICA board president.
Gary Sjoquist, advocacy director for QBP, has signed on as founding chair of the Minnesota league and is currently forming a committee of members to oversee development.
Sjoquist said he began looking into a Minnesota league after Twin Cities retail heavyweights Penn Cyclery and Eric’s Bikes inquired about the possibility of bringing high school mountain biking to the state.
The league is statewide, but initially the focus will be on drawing high school studies from the seven counties in the Twin Cities. In that area there are 76 high schools and 125,000 students in grades 9-12, Sjoquist said.
“It’s a big pool to draw from,” he added.
He has not started the fundraising process yet—it takes about $25,000 to start a new league—but said with companies like QBP and Park Tool located in the Twin Cities, as well as 33 of the top Fortune 500 businesses, he’s not daunted by that task.
Sjoquist aims for racing in Minnesota to begin in 2012.
The Texas league is headed by Vance McMurry, a former racer and parent of two teenagers. McMurry hopes to attract 200 kids to the league in
its first season, likely to kick off in February 2012. Lisa Miller is in charge of the Washington league, which has been in the works for several years. Races are scheduled to start there next spring.
The new leagues are in addition to existing project leagues in Southern California and Colorado, founded in 2008 and 2009, respectively. The original league—the NorCal High School Cycling League—formed in 2001 and now has a roster of 40 teams and 600 students.
NICA formed at Interbike last year to act as a national governing body for the leagues. It is funded by grants from Specialized, Easton Foundations, SRAM and Trek.