By Moses Leos III
There isn’t much that can persuade Lehman High sophomore Justin Greenfield away from the thrill of mountain biking.
From navigating tricky downhill sections rife with undergrowth, to traversing grassy climbs and loops, hitting the trail is the life.
It was bolstered after Justin’s father, Paul Greenfield, owner of Arrowhead Bicycles in Mountain City, persuaded Justin to begin racing as an independent in the Texas High School Mountain Biking League (THSMBL).
The two now hope to bring the thrill of competitive mountain biking to Lehman via the Lehman High School Mountain Biking Club. Justin hopes to instill his passion of the sport in his peers.
“It was the overall experience, especially when I raced over the summer, not with a team, but away from the THSMBL,” Justin said of what made him start the sport. “I’m not going to quit now. It’s so much fun.”
Their trek into competitive mountain biking began after Paul informed Justin of the league. Last season, Paul and Arrowhead Bicycles helped San Marcos High School begin its mountain bike program, which drew over 30 riders in the first year.
Justin entered the league as an independent last February. He raced in all five THSMBL events, finishing 18th out of 37 riders in the Freshman Boys Division. Justin earned his best finish of 14th at the Rocky Hill Rampage competition at the Rocky Hill Ranch in Smithville.
But it was a learning experience for the father and son duo. Paul, who is the Lehman High club team coach, said the sport’s first year is the toughest. He ingrained in his son the importance of observing other riders – a tactic he plans to forward to the Lehman squad in 2015.
“We always tell people, the first year, don’t expect to go out and win everything,” Paul said. “The first year is a training year.”
Despite the challenge, Justin enjoyed the experience, primarily the trails, which offered a wide ranging array of obstacles and challenges.
He also competed against riders from Austin, Dallas and South Texas. Races consist of riders racing through the circuit in the fastest time possible. Freshman race roughly 12 miles, while the varsity class races upwards of 18 miles.
“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “I couldn’t quit. And I still can’t quit.”
With that knowledge in hand, along with his experiences, Justin proposed the idea to start a mountain biking team in Hays CISD. Originally, the two planned to have a composite Hays and Lehman High team. However, they narrowed down to Lehman High due to the familiarity with staff.
Armed with the idea, Justin and Paul worked on creating a club at school. With the help of teacher and fellow biker Greg Bilinski, Lehman High began holding club meetings in October.
According to Paul, ten students have expressed interest, with four committed to participating.
He plans to train his team at several locations, including utilizing Lake Kyle Park for the basics. For the more technical aspects, Paul said he hopes to use Purgatory Creek and Spring Lake in San Marcos, and Slaughter Creek in Austin.
But Paul, who for the first time will take the role as coach, hopes to instill more than the competitive mentality. Exposing students who might not fit in to other team sports to a different activity is one aspect. He also plans to teach the “right way” to ride on the trails, including passing in a safe manner.
“They consider it a more youth development organization than just a sports thing,” Paul said. “It’s not just get them out there and race, but to get them to race the right way and treat others [courteously] on the course.”
But like many club sports, there are costs involved.
Registration with the league is $50, which also covers some insurance costs. Riders must also pay $40 per race, adding up to $200.
While interested riders must foot the bill, Paul said he is seeking sponsorships to help defray some costs.
That cost doesn’t include the bike itself, which ranges from $500 and up. Currently, Paul said many of the interested Lehman High riders have their own bikes.
But newcomers can find avenues to help offset the investment. Programs from the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA), and bicycle companies help by offering discounts. In addition, many police departments help students by donating new or refurbished bikes.
Paul and Justin continue to work on building the team, including adding more female riders into the mix.
For Justin, the thrill of the sport is mixed with its relative ease on the body. It’s a fact he shares with those who might be interested in trying it.
“Even if you have bad knees, if you used to be a runner and you have bad knees, mountain biking doesn’t require using them,” he said. “So, you can do mountain biking as often as you can. It’s a good physical activity for someone to do.”