BBA mountain biking competing in new division in 2020 | Sports

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The coronavirus forced Burr and Burton mountain biking coach Jon Mowry to get creative to ensure BBA was able to compete this fall against other schools.

Mowry called around to other local high schools with mountain biking programs in early August to ensure the athletes would have a season.

They created the Southern Vermont High School Mountain Bike Series, which consists of five schools in the southern part of the state: BBA, Green Mountain High School, Woodstock, Killington Mountain School and Stratton Mountain School. These schools, along with a few individual riders, are in the middle of a six-race season.

BBA typically competes in the Northern New England High School Mountain Bike Race Series, which consists of schools throughout Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

There were concerns over crossing state boundaries and not knowing if those states would be participating in fall sports this year.

The race looks a little different as well. Instead of a bunched start, riders now compete in waves of six, with each wave being spaced out by a minute. Participants wear a mask until they are separated into their respected wave. They are not required to wear a mask while riding.

There are different entry points for different skilled riders, much like cross country. New riders typically compete in the “C” Division, which consists of a shorter race, somewhere around four miles depending on the track.

The “A” Division is where the fastest riders compete, and those races will span anywhere from eight to ten miles, and the winner will cross the finish line about an hour after the race begins.

Mountain bike racing is not a sanctioned varsity sport according to the Vermont Principals Association. Mowry said they are strictly following guidelines, including limiting events to 150 people total.

With around 100 riders, that leaves little room for spectators.

The popularity of the sport has steadily increased through the years according to Mowry. Especially this year, there has been an uptick in biking in general with the coronavirus forcing people to stay home. A lot more people are taking up the sport.

Burr and Burton has 35 members on their team alone, the largest number the programs ever had since its creation as a varsity sport five years ago.

“There’s no doubt that in Vermont we’re just plain seeing more mountain bikes,” Mowry said. “This is a great sport for kids who aren’t doing the more traditional sports like soccer or football.”

The BBA coach also believes the increase in enrollment at some of the schools who offer the sport has to do with the increase in numbers.

Through three races this season, BBA has finished second, second, and third in competition. SMS has won all three events so far.

Judd Gourley, Wesley Dennan and Jon Pickarski have paced the Bulldogs on the boys side.

Devan Kajah, Grace DiStasio and Sarah Hyde have led the way for BBA on the girls side of competition.

Mowry said if the numbers continue to grow, The Southern Vermont High School Mountain Bike Series may become the new norm. It limits travel time, as schools are more local. He mentioned that originally in the Northern New England High School Mountain Bike Race Series, BBA may have to travel to Maine for a race. Two years ago, with an increase in numbers, they split that race series into two divisions, east and west, to limit the traveling.

“We’ve already made that split because the numbers were getting bigger,” Mowry said. “Maybe it’s going to make sense to split further.”

There are three races left in the season. Poultney is hosting the next competition on Wednesday. Killington will be the host site for a race on Oct. 28 and the regular season will conclude with a race hosted by BBA on Oct. 31 at the Equinox Preserve Trails.

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