The Cabarrus Composite Cog Crushers, Cox Mill High School, and Harris Road Middle School mountain bike teams competed at this month’s North Carolina Interscholastic Cycling League (NCICL) state championship in Mayodan, North Carolina. It was the fourth and final race of the 2022 season – the league’s first since the series was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic.
The 2022 season marked the final year for seniors Bryce Wallace, Alex Wallace and Katelyn Woodie. Tanner Bengle placed second overall in the Grade 7 Boys Race category, and the Cox Mill High School team won the Hype Award in the opening race for their unapologetic support not only of their own teammates, but also to other riders.
Matt Hartman and Jason Pressley formed the Cabarrus Composite Cog Crushers in 2017. The NCICL provides a unique experience for student-athletes to race together as a team. It’s a site to behold as team tents from across the state fill the pit area at every race. The team environment allows for the camaraderie of more traditional sports while teaching young people responsibility. Students are grouped by age and ability as their teammates cheer them on as they race. Team members are not required to race, although many student-athletes, even those initially hesitant, have engaged in race weekend activities.
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Cabarrus County teams experienced significant growth over the past year when they more than doubled the number of student-athletes who participated in the program. The total number of team members reached 37 this season. Teams train weekly at the Harrisburg and Brown Mill mountain bike courses.
Mountain biking has become more accessible in recent years thanks to the hard work of dedicated volunteers who have managed to catch the attention of local authorities like Councilman Brian King.
“The sport of mountain biking is growing and is particularly important as it provides an alternative for children who participate in a team sport who may not be attracted to some of the traditional sports that were only available in the past,” King said.
“Despite these infrastructure investments, we still need to work to make the sport more equitable and inclusive – two of NICA’s values - by reducing barriers to participation for black and brown youth,” said the Tier 1 coach. , Tara Bengle.
GRiT has made progress in increasing the number of girls and young women who have joined the sport, and it is a model that can be applied to expand participation to other communities.
These values carry over to student-athletes. For example, they welcomed Andrew Boccolucci, a 6th grader with a traumatic brain injury, to the team. Andrew was already an experienced and enthusiastic mountain biker when he joined the team. His mother, Tamara Boccolucci, who supports Andrew as a Level 1 coach and attends every practice with him, says her son benefits from the individualized nature of the sport and the encouragement from his teammates.
Previous races for the 2022 season have taken place at Browns Creek in Elizabethtown, Salisbury Community Park in Salisbury and Quaker Lake Camp in Climax. Members of the Cabarrus Composite team who have raced this season are Andrew Schell, Gabe Wright, Andrew Boccolucci, Pippa Whiteley, Tanner Bengle, Timothy Weaver, Devin Arnold, Tucker McAteer, Michael Spokas, Alex Kopp, Stone Whitely, Owen Austin, Justin Maston, Sam Hermans, Sarah Weaver and Skylar Arnold. Representing Cox Mill High School at this year’s races are Nate Irvan, Dustin Vanover, Alex Wallace and Bryce Wallace. Harris Road Middle School runners are Liam Drake, Colby Rocco, Carter White, Madison White, Kyle Rocco, Jacob Emig and Andrey Kravtsov.
The North Carolina Interscholastic Cycling League (NCICL) is part of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA), a national organization whose mission is to strengthen minds, bodies, character and communities through cycling. State-level leagues allow local teams to advance NICA’s mission at the county and school level. The goal is to add mountain biking to school sports programming. Cox Mill High School and Harris Road Middle School are examples of where we have been successful in this area. The Cabarrus Composite Cog Crushers offers students who do not have a team at their individual school the opportunity to compete at the county level. Student-athletes are encouraged to ask their schools to form a NICA team. The Composite team is also open to homeschooled students.
This season’s success would not be possible without the dedicated support of parent volunteers, eighteen of whom signed up as Level 1 coaches last season. Volunteers can provide support in a variety of ways and no cycling skills are required. Companies and individuals can also support by making in-kind or cash contributions to our charity.
King adds that “Concord is extremely proud of the hard work and dedication that team members, coaches, parents and volunteers at Cabarrus COG Crushers, Cox Mill High School and Harris Road Middle School have shown this year, this who has brought such success to these local teams.”
All three teams operate under the umbrella of C4 Cycling, Inc, AKA Central Carolina Cycling Club, a 501c3.