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NICA programs increase youth race participation at Sea Otter

Published April 14, 2016

MONTEREY, Calif. (BRAIN) — Since its inception in 2009, the National Interscholastic Cycling Association has established leagues in 18 states, and that effort has helped get more high school kids riding and racing mountain bikes. Besides attending NICA-sanctioned races, many of the young riders show up to events like Sea Otter to compete in a broader field.

And the number of kids ages 15-18 racing at Sea Otter has grown every year since 2009.

"We wondered if NICA had an impact on the numbers in the junior fields at Sea Otter since the first programs were established," said Austin McInerny, NICA's executive director. "So we compared 2009 Sea Otter cross-country race numbers with 2015, and in those six years, the number of 18-and-under riders has definitely grown."

According to McInerny's estimates, youth (age 15-18) male participation at Sea Otter grew 46 percent while youth female race registrations grew by 64 percent in 2015 compared with 2009.

Jeff Frost, who handles athlete services and risk management for Sea Otter, said that while racers in all categories and disciplines are traveling from 35 states and 10 countries this year, the majority still come from Northern and Southern California. Both regions have strong NICA leagues, currently with about 1,700 high school students participating.

"Youth racing has mirrored some of the growth seen at NICA," Frost said. "We have grown about 10 percent over the last five years — and we started with large junior categories to begin with."

But it's not just the off-road categories that have grown at Sea Otter. Junior road racing categories have grown twice as fast in five years, and Frost attributed it to the growth of youth road racing programs in Southern California.

The California NICA leagues purposely do not schedule high school races on Sea Otter weekend in order to give kids the chance to race at Laguna Seca.

"Those kids are fully primed and racing Sea Otter comes right in the middle of their season," McInerny said. "And it's an easy event to get to for our California leagues."

 

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