Girls’ mountain biking crushes the competition

The girls of NPHS’s mountain bike team have dominated the field so far this season, heavily contributing to the team’s overall score. The team’s races at Lake Perris and Vail Lake sported many podium finishes for both Girls JV and Varsity divisions.

Devon Deuel, sophomore, practices with group two and is racing JV1. “Being a girl in a male dominated sport can be scary and intimidating,” Deuel said. Deuel finished third in her race at Perris and fifth at Vail. She brushes off criticism received about being the minority in the sport. “A lot of teams make comments about the girls… like ‘oh my gosh Newbury’s team with the girls leading, you guys must be slow’,” Deuel said.

Deuel’s teammates scoring for Conejo Composite, a division of the NPHS team consisting of riders that attend other schools, placed first and second in JV1 at Vail Lake. The field of riders is smaller this season, with Newbury Park’s highschool division consisting of 31 riders as opposed to 35 previously, yet they have beaten out much of the competition. Team points are compiled from riders’ race finishes, and out of eight scorers for the Newbury Park team at Perris, six were girls.

Keelan Nygren, sophomore, is on varsity and trains with group one. The limited number of girls race divisions brought Nygren closer than ever to her competitors. “I became really good friends with girls that I compete with and they’re from other teams in different areas,” Nygren said.

Mia Morris, junior, scored fifth place at her race at Vail Lake, and has been biking since third grade with her brother and father, who is a coach for the NPHS team. “One of my best friends I met in sixth grade because of the bike team and we’re still super close to this day,” Morris said.

The team trained four to five days a week, three weeks straight for their first race of the season. On set days of the week, the team alternated between easy rides, interval days and tempo rides, reserving Saturdays for long rides. The team’s most recent race was at Vail Lake, Temecula, on March 11. Nygren’s highlight was the unique features that riding in Vail had to offer. “The trails are really flowy, like, they’re really fun, some have jumps on them,” Nygren said.

Day of the race, many riders have their own unique routines to mentally and physically prepare for the strenuous activity ahead. “We warm up on the trainers in the tent and then I do a lot of stretching getting ready,” Nygren said. The girls strategize together before the race and encourage each other to do their best.

Morris always goes to bed early the night prior to a race to prepare. “I wake up in the morning, I have rice and eggs because it’s good protein,” Morris said. Before her race, she warms up with her teammates.

Morris encourages new riders to try out mountain biking, even if it means pushing themselves out of their comfort zone. “It’s important to know that the people who are a part of this sport are all really good people, especially in our area,” Morris said.

Community plays a prominent role in encouraging NPHS riders to do their best. “[My favorite part of racing is] seeing everybody out in the course and having everybody cheering for you and you feel so supported like you have a community behind you,” Deuel said.