Methow Composite cyclists excel on their home course
Defending varsity girls champion Stella Scholz led multiple racers from Methow Composite, the local youth mountain biking team, to the top of the podium in the 2023 Washington Student Cycling League season championships at the Liberty Bell High School campus on Sunday (June 4).
Scholz, a senior at Liberty Bell, won her second straight state championship in dominant fashion, outpacing the field in the 15-mile race on a dry, warm and dusty day on the home course.
It was a blue-ribbon day for Methow Composite. Quin Smith took 1st place in the advanced middle school boys’ division for the local club, Tea Hoffman was the first eighth-grade girl to cross the finish line, and Sisu Clark won the seventh-grade girls’ division.
Other top-five finishers for Methow Composite included Graham Sheley (varsity boys, 5th place), Ila Newman (JV girls, 2nd place), Josie Bolinger (intermediate girls, 2nd place), Wylie Smith (advanced middle school girls, 2nd place), Logan Hughes (eighth-grade boys, 2nd place), Sammy DeSalvo (seventh-grade girls, 3rd place), Ava Burrington (seventh-grade girls, 5th place), and Cicely Newman (sixth-grade girls, 2nd place).
The single-track course winds, climbs, and dives its way around the northwest corner of the Liberty Bell campus with long hills, sharp drops and a few flat spots. Most of the 5- mile lap is a narrow single track pathway, providing lots of curves where skill and quickness in acceleration are required for gaining position.
Some of it is in the shade of the ponderosa pine stand that borders the school’s athletic field, while much of the course twists its way through the predominant bitterbrush and dry grasses of the local shrub-steppe.
The day was in sharp contrast to last year’s Methow race, which was cooled and dampened by showers. Conditions on race day proved to be hot, dry and dusty. When the sixth-graders got underway at 9:45 a.m., the temperature was a comfortable 68 degrees, conditions that Head Coach Jeremy Newman described as almost perfect. Temperatures climbed into the 80s later in the day.
All told, 441 racers recorded finishes in the 16 classes of racers, which included racing clubs from all over Washington, as well as the Kootenai club from the Idaho panhandle.
Newman was impressed with the work his crew of volunteers had done to prepare the course for the championship event. “They worked hard, rerouting and building some additional features (also known as jumps and bumps), and extending the course just a bit to get it to 5 miles per lap,” he said.
Scholz broke out early in that varsity girls’ race, where she was the heavy favorite, winning by 2 ½ minutes over Laura Pollard of the Palouse club. She was methodical and steady, appearing to be fresh after a final kick to the finish line to complete the 15 miles in 1:11:35.8.
The championship drops the curtain on a standout three years for the Liberty Bell senior. Over the past two seasons she has won seven of eight races, placing a close 2nd at the Methow race last year, and winning both state championships. Scholz is headed to Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, on a cycling scholarship with one of the top-rated college cycling programs in the U.S.
Kian Reid of Wenatchee Valley won the boys’ varsity race in a battle to the line with Finn Westover of Seattle Metro. After just over an hour on the course, the Orchard Middle School eighth-grader nipped Westover, a high school junior from Seattle, by four tenths of a second.
Ila Newman raced to 2nd place in the girls’ JV race, in 1:25:18. She was pretty much alone there, with Roxy McBurns of Inland NW (Spokane) in first place some 4 minutes ahead and Spokane Valley’s Natalie Lohstroh 2 full minutes behind Newman in third.
Quin Smith was all smiles after his race victory in the advanced middle school division. This is his third year in the program and his first state championship. Smith also plays soccer and basketball at Liberty Bell.
For first year rider Tea Hoffman, an eighth-grader who plays and thinks hockey most of the rest of the year, her win on Sunday was especially sweet. “Yep, it’s pretty cool,” she said. “I’ve been behind Pearl (McBurns) in my other races, so to be ahead of her today was good.” Hoffman was second to the McBurns in two previous races this year.
For seventh grader Sisu Clark, her state title was also a special moment, even though as a previous winner and top three placer this year she was considered a favorite in her class. “It felt pretty good, but the toughest part of the course, going up the hill to the water tower … that was hard.”
A few spills
The Aero Methow Rescue Service crew was busy, according to staff member Bruce Hevly, dealing with a number of minor injuries from twisted ankles to scrapes and bruises, but nothing very serious.
Early in the day, Methow’s Cicely Newman took a spill in the girls’ sixth-grade race, somersaulting over her bike. She was in 1st place at the time, but had to shake off the cobwebs a bit. By the time she got back up and running she had fallen to 8th place about 1/3 of the way into the one-lap (5-mile) race. She began what coach and dad Jeremy Newman termed “an epic comeback,” gaining back seven of those eight spots and finishing just 30 seconds behind race winner Annika Burns from Spokane’s Inland Composite Cycling Club.
Race Chair and Executive Director of the Washington Student Cycling League was favorably impressed with the facility at Liberty Bell. “This was our third race in 21 months at Liberty Bell High School,” said Williams. “The course improves each season. All the feedback from students and coaches was positive and they were glad to see it was lengthened.”
This is the first time the WSCL Championships have been held at the Methow Valley location. Indications are it won’t be the last.