By Hayley Fedor
Strap on your helmets, fill up your tires and hold on for dear life, because local athletes are reaching incredible heights in the sport of mountain biking for the state. The Florida Interscholastic Cycling League (FICL), founded in 2018 by Maxwell Gledhill, organizes mountain biking as a sport for middle school and high school athletes in the state.
“Our goal is to basically have mountain biking as a sport for kids. … Typically, what NICA (National Interscholastic Cycling Association) teams become are what are called club teams, so they are still affiliated with the school, but they’re a club team,” said Gledhill.
The Florida league is composed of 13 teams located throughout the state, including Southern Hillsborough with Ridgeline Composite and Lakeland with the Lakeland Composite Lynx. Local teams practice and ride in a few locations in the area; two spots frequently used during the season are Balm Boyette Scrub Nature Preserve and Alafia State Park.
For those teams associated with the FICL, the competition season runs from October, when teams first start meeting to practice and runs (or rather rolls), through May with state competitions.
Although the FICL typically formats state races so that teams race against each other at the same time, last season looked a bit different as a result of COVID-19. It included four timed races where one team raced at a time and athletes received points depending on what time they finished the race. The final overall rankings for the season came down to which athletes accumulated the highest points total in their age group.
Two athletes, Tyler Hover from Durant and another competitor from Newsome High School, ranked in the top three for their age groups in the FICL last season.
From the perspective of Julie Hover, proud mother of Tyler, “It’s just been amazing to see how it’s helped him with focus; it’s helped him with dedication and commitment to goals.”
Parents often volunteer as coaches or volunteer at events, which a lot of times gives them the opportunity to be out there on bikes with their kids aside from competitions.
“For me, the most rewarding thing is just seeing families come together because of this, because what’s really unique about this sport is that the parents can actually participate with the kids,” said Gledhill.
To find out more about the opportunities with the local composite teams and the Florida Interscholastic Cycling League, visit floridamtb.org.