Some 360 youth were in the valley for the first-ever sanctioned race visit by the Washington Student Cycling League on Sunday (May 15) at the Methow Valley School District campus.
What started out as a dry and dusty affair during Saturday practice sessions turned into a Sunday of early dampness that morphed into a muddy quagmire by the end of race day as light rain turned to an extended Methow Spring ground-soaker.
Racers participated according to age classifications from sixth grade through the senior year in high school. While not affiliated with the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, the league uses similar divisions for the high school aged racers including varsity and junior varsity, classifying the younger ages according to experience levels in the beginner, intermediate and advanced divisions.
Race distances are defined by the level of the racers, the younger and less-experienced touring one lap on the 4.4 mile course, intermediate ages and skill levels complete two circuits, and the high school racers take three laps to complete a race.
The seventh-graders opened the day’s activities with a thrilling boys’ battle, a tussle between local Jackson Van Bueren and Pilchuck’s Degan Hess, Van Bueren leading for most of the early part of the race. Hess took the lead with about a mile to go and held it until Van Bueren found a new gear and outsprinted Hess to the finish line, taking first place by less than 6 seconds.
According to volunteer coach Kelly Bolinger, Methow racer Quin Smith hung with the leaders for about half the race when the mechanical piece of racing luck bit him. Smith had lost his chain, falling back while he worked on his bike to get back in the race. Once the chain had been put back in place, he found himself back in 8th place. Smith dug in and picked up three spots to finish fifth.
“He was able to make a comeback to 5th place,” said Bolinger. “It was a very impressive ride.”
Methow’s Wylie Smith led wire-to-wire to take 1st place with teammate Sisu Clark placing 2nd in the girls’ sixth-grade class. Samuel Polson was a strong 2nd place in the boys’ race, about 25 seconds behind winner Max Haglof McCallum of Seattle. Other top five finishers for the Methow club included Ila Newman (3rd) and Jasmine DeVlieg (5th) in the girls’ JV race. Graham Sheley was 4th in the boys’ varsity division and Stella Scholz placed 2nd in the girls’ varsity race.
“I think being our home course, most of the kids felt comfortable and ready to race,” said Bolinger. Bolinger’s daughter, Josie, sat out the Methow race after taking a tumble in a previous race and was not ready to return to the course.
“Stella Scholz had a great start, putting quite a gap on the rest of the field, reported Bolinger. “Adeline Lowen from Wenatchee was able to reel her back in on the last lap. Stella also raced two races last weekend in Soho where she won both of those races. She is having an amazing season.”
Bolinger gave credit to race organizers, and coaches, Hanz Scholz, Jeremy Newman and Harold Sheley. “This race has been their dream. They created a fun and challenging course that has become one of four races showcased by the Washington Cycling League. If not for their hard work, this program would not be what it is today,” Bolinger said.
There were also about 100 volunteers who helped with the race, including some from the local community, parents and others from around the Pacific Northwest’s mountain bike community.
It was on to Spokane this past weekend for the season-ending state championship race at Riverside State Park, where Scholz’ amazing season turned into a championship ride. Scholz, riding under the banner of Methow Composite, took 1st place in the varsity girls’ division, edging Sarah-Jo Fitsch of Wenatchee by 11 seconds over the 15-mile race that took an hour and a half to complete. Wenatchee’s Adeline Loewen, the previous winner in the Methow race, finished 3rd.
The varsity boys were led by Aran Connolly of Seattle, a half-minute ahead of teammate Finn Westover, with Wenatchee’s Klan Reid in 3rd. Methow’s Graham Sheley was just out of the top five in 6th place; brother Carter crossed the line in 8th place and Ben Kaufman placed 13th.
Ila Newman and Jasmine DeVlieg placed 4th and 5th, respectively, in the girls’ JV race. Quin Smith found himself with 4th-place honors in the seventh-grade boys’ race, Wylie Smith and Sisu Clark finished 2nd and 3rd, respectively, in the sixth-grade girls’ race. Anja Merkens and Ava Burrington also raced in the sixth-grade girls’ race, placing 7th and 8th.