Summit Tigers mountain bike team caps successful Division 1 season with 4th place at state
Bumping up to the Colorado High School Cycling League’s Division 1 this season from Division 2 a year ago certainly provided a challenge at the outset of this autumn’s mountain biking campaign for the Summit Tigers.
In competing in North Division 1, Summit was up against not only the top teams in the state — such as Boulder, Fairview and Golden — but the Tigers were also up against a numbers disadvantage.
As opposed to those other top Division 1 teams, who field upward of 50 riders (In Boulder’s case, more than 90), Summit had just over 30 mountain bikers on its team this season. That meant week in and week out, almost half of Summit’s total riders would qualify for top 15 points positions. In the Colorado High School Cycling League’s autumn mountain bike circuit, the top 15 riders from each team are awarded points that go toward the team’s overall score.
In the end, at Saturday and Sunday’s state championship in Durango, Summit finished in an impressive fourth place of the 11 Division 1 teams that raced at the qualification-only “Durango Mesa Pursuit” event. Once again, Summit’s total score of 6,275 points was behind Boulder (7,479), Fairview (6,913) and Golden (6,426).
To cap the season, though, Summit certainly proved its in the conversation with those three other top teams as the four best programs in the state. That’s evidenced by the 703-point gap at the state meet between Summit at No. 4 and Cheyenne Mountain at No. 5. That’s more of a margin than the 638-point gap that separated Fairview at No. 2 and Summit at No. 4.
Once again this season, Summit was paced in the points column by sophomore rider Tai-Lee Smith. Smith’s fifth-place finish in the three-lap varsity girls race in a time of one hour, 36 minutes and 47.9 seconds earned the Tigers 539 points. In her second year riding in the Colorado High School Cycling League, Smith said the change of the starting line at the beginning of the varsity girls race initially threw riders like her and Tiger junior Opal Koning for a loop. But once everyone adjusted, on the 7.1-mile lap course with a per-lap elevation gain of 647 feet, it was all about keeping pace with the front riders before the course narrowed.
“The first 10 minutes, everyone is going so hard,” Smith said. “People that are always in the front, they get in the lead, but they can’t hold it. It’s really hard. You want to get up to the front too, because it gets into the single-track. You don’t want to lose the lead group.”
LISTEN: Summit Tigers High School mountain bikers Max Bonenberger, Opal Koning, Tai-Lee Smith and Victoria Uglyar reflect on last weekend’s state championship races and the 2018 season.
In that three-lap varsity girls race, Summit earned a total of 2,227 team points — more than a third of the team’s overall points — from five different riders. Koning’s 13th-place finish in a time of 1:40:01.65 resulted in Summit’s third-highest overall individual scoring performance of the day, at 483 points. For Koning, it was an ideal way to conclude her season, especially considering she bounced back from a pre-ride crash.
“I really just wanted to end my season on a high note, because I’ve been having some really up and down races lately,” she said. “… I started in 25th call-up (pre-race position) and finished in 13th, which I was proud of. And I really just wanted to go out there and have fun and be a strong rider — know that I was doing the best that I could in the race.”
The Tigers were also one of the strongest teams in the three-lap boys junior varsity race, as Summit received 39 percent of its overall team point-total from the six JV boys riders who placed in the team’s top 15. Freshman Lasse Konecny rode to the second of three individual top 10 Tiger times in Durango, his mark of 1:25:25.26 producing a seventh-place finish and 488 points for the Tigers.
Behind Konecny, juniors Max Bonenberger and Finn Remias also put together stellar times while riding near each other for most of the race. Bonenberger’s 11th-place time of 1:28:42.24 was just over 40 seconds faster than Remias’ 13th-place time of 1:29:23.98.
For the dual-sport athlet,e Bonenberger — who’s also qualified this autumn for the state cross-country running championship — riding with Remias has produced success throughout the season.
“I was staged 19th and I finished 11th,” Bonenberger said, “which is pretty much how I expected to go. I wanted to pace with Finn, and we did that throughout the whole race, alternating on the hills and downhills, and I think it went pretty much how I wanted it to go. It’s nice to have someone out there to ride with, because you’re not alone. You have a teammate to push you. It’s easier to not give up and they are kind of helping you through.”
The top individual performance of the weekend came from Tigers freshman rider Victoria Uglyar. After commencing this season with a first-place finish on her home trails at the Frisco Bay Invitational, Uglyar wrapped it up with yet another top-three finish. This one earned her team 481 points as Uglyar blazed to a two-lap time of 1:07:18.54 on the Durango Mesa. Uglyar was joined in the top 15 of the freshman girls race by teammates Samantha Hessel (13th-place, 408 points) and Marin Ward (14th-place, 402 points), who each capped fantastic freshman years with the Tigers.
“The race before that in Eagle didn’t go too well,” Uglyar said, “so I really wanted to improve. … I wanted to redeem myself, almost, and I remember starting and I was taken by surprise how aggressive everyone was and I was like, ‘OK, it’s here. We’re going to start this.’ I went down the weekend before to practice this downhill section that was open to the public, and it was helpful because I knew it so well and I could catch up with the girls in front of me and eventually pass four girls at once.”
Dyer-Biggin named coach of the year
The exclamation point to the Tigers’ season also came this week when their coach, Marla Dyer-Biggin, was awarded “Coach of the Year” by the Colorado High School Cycling League. Her athletes described Dyer-Biggin as “the bread and butter” of the program, the kind of do-it-all leader who helps with everything from technical mountain-bike coaching to making sure everyone has all their necessary gear and transportation to events.
In the wake of the announcement, there was a common refrain from Dyer-Biggin’s athletes, their parents and her fellow coaches.
“No one deserves it more.”[swift-recs]
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