Mountain Biking

Kansas mountain biking team says ‘it’s about the camaraderie’ – The Hutchinson News


HUTCHINSON – You don’t need mountains to mountain bike in Kansas.

The National Interscholastic Cycling Association has a goal of getting children on bikes. That goal was achieved with a team in based in Hutchinson called Hutchinson Composite.

The type of biking the team does is similar to cross-country running. David Inskeep, one of the coaches for Hutchinson Composite, said the type of race is not totally what is seen on Redbull commercials on television or even what is raced in the Rockies, but the style of racing in Kansas is fun, especially with this season being Kansas’s inaugural year in mountain biking.

“We’re one of the newest states to come on board,” Inskeep said. “This is our first season, and we just now completed two different races. Our first race was at Santa Fe Lake, which is right near Augusta, and they got some really neat single track there that they were able to put a course in there.

Hutchinson Composite’s most recent race was at a private farm called Palen Farms, which is known to host and accommodate races for many events. There will be two more races for Hutchinson Composite in Emporia and Topeka. 

Creating a composite team

The team is a junior varsity squad made up of kids ranging from sixth to 11th grade. The term “composite” means the team is not affiliated with a specific school, Inskeep said. Being the team is a start-up, they are trying to get their name out there and thought it was wiser to become a composite organization.

“We do have student-athletes that attend Hutchinson schools,” Inskeep said. “We have students that attend Buhler schools. We actually have one student-athlete from a private school in Wichita. So, he gets to travel a little bit for practice. We’re six (people) strong.”

Inskeep is one of the three coaches who help manage Hutchinson Composite. The sport is also a bit new to him as well. Inskeep is assisted by Justin Combs, who is the director of parks and facilities for the City of Hutchinson. Inskeep said Combs used to competitively race mountain bikes.

Combs brought in Ethan Ward, who is an exercise physiologist, who has also competed in mountain bike racing as well.

“We found that we had a natural group of coaches,” Inskeep said. “Two of them that were well-versed in mountain biking and one that just rides a lot, that’s me.”

New opportunities

On the team, there are six riders. There are three high-schoolers -one junior and two sophomores – as well as two seventh-graders and a sixth-grader. All riders knew how to ride a bike, but mountain biking was something new for the middle-schoolers, especially introducing them to single-track racing, Inskeep said.

“They really lit up,” Inskeep said. “This is something new and different that they hadn’t been exposed to and never would’ve been exposed to if it were not for this opportunity.”

After having the boys team place first at the last meet and two riders on the girls’ team finishing in the top three, Inskeep said the young riders thoroughly enjoy it. Similarly, every athlete comes from an endurance-type sport such as cross country. Inskeep said with that background, mountain biking is not foreign to the kids.

“They keep confidently telling us that next year the team is going to grow,” Inskeep said. “They’re talking to their friends, and their friends are just enamored with what they’re doing. Now that they’re actually capturing some video and stuff of it, they’re posting it and their friends are saying, ‘What is that? That looks super cool.'”

“You don’t have to have mountains to race mountain bikes. It’s not really about racing. It’s about camraderie. The kids have been making friends with their peers from across the state… Like I said, they seem to really enjoy it. I think it’s a bit of a badge of honor for doing something different. Not to take anything away from the fall sports, but the fact that they’re doing something different that nobody else is doing is adds a bit of a cool factor to it.”