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For Boulder High mountain bike team, winning is just part of the culture

Boulder High's mountain bike team poses for a team photo in front of the school. (Photo provided by Tabitha Brown)
Boulder High’s mountain bike team poses for a team photo in front of the school. (Photo provided by Tabitha Brown)
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Mountain biking is often thought of as an individual sport, but Boulder High School has continued to prove the worth of the team aspect over the past 13 years.

Last month, for the 10th time since the inception of the sport at the high school level, the Panthers blew away the rest of the competition to take home another state championship. Ella Brown placed 10th in the girls varsity race to vault her team toward the gold with 502 individual points.

“I actually chose Boulder High partly because I heard the mountain bike team was so amazing,” Brown said. “I love being on the bike team. It’s been one of the best parts of my high school experience. I’ve been racing bikes with a club team since I was 9 years old, but riding with the Boulder High team was the first time I actually felt like I was part of a team.

“I placed 10th in the varsity girls race at states, which was great because my goal was to get in the top 10. My main strategy was to get as close to the front as possible at the start, which didn’t really work out. However, I was able to pass a lot of people later in the race and make up a couple of places.”

The race, which took place at the Colorado Mountain College campus in Glenwood Springs, incorporated bumpy and slow terrain. But that was no challenge for a team as large as the Panthers, which house 139 registered riders, most of which attend BHS.

In a sport like mountain biking, that size certainly matters.

“We have some incredibly talented kids,” team director Tabitha Brown said. “They’re very athletic, they’re very fit, and they have mad bike skills. So the combination of those things certainly helps the team’s success. The numbers factor, yes. We have a lot of people on the team, but most importantly, we have a lot of talented girls on the team.

“The way that the point system works is if you have more than 30 riders on your team, you are considered a Division-I competitor. We obviously have more than 30. I think it’s like 34% of our riders are girls. As they compete, they’re competing in the junior varsity and the varsity categories and those categories help the team points.”

The fun doesn’t just come from competition success.

Over the years, the Boulder coaches and team leaders have made sure everyone felt like part of the team, whether they were top 10 on varsity or just riding along with the other freshmen. They build community through photo competitions, which can include “craziest pose on your bikes” or splashing around in the creek crossings.

Whether they’re bringing winning smiles or they’re winning titles — which they’ve done through 77% of their existence — the Panthers sure know how to stand out among the competition. After 13 years of hitting the trails, they’ve shown no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

“I think this team is really incredible,” Ella said. “It’s a great experience to be a part of such a large, diverse team. We have a lot of talented people and it’s amazing to be able to consistently win state titles, but I think the really special thing about being on such a large team is the support and community. Anyone can find their place on our team and feel supported. I think that’s what really makes our team so successful.”

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