Most Redwood sports are played on campus with a panoramic view of Mount Tam. But within the trees of Mt. Tam, the rolling hills and the California
Coast line, the Redwood Mountain Biking club rides on the unlimited woven trails that sculpt the terrain.
“It’s so fun to be in nature and you’re not confined to a workout room. You’re not confined to a field on campus. You can really just go all over Marin County, all over the state, all over the country and world and you’ll still find mountain biking,” senior Bay Johnson said, who has been on the team since his freshman year.
Made up of around 40-50 riders, the Redwood-affiliated sport looks to regain their former success after previously unrewarding years.
Like Johnson, juniors Dylan Anderson and Nathan Kim joined their freshman year.
“My goal is trying to go fast and still push my limits but not lose my control and go off the cliff; finding that boundary of going really fast and really smart,” Anderson said.
Throughout the season, the team practices every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday. In the winter, the team attends indoor Pelo Spin classes. In addition, they meet every Monday at lunch to talk about strategy.
Every year the team races in five competitions in the Northern California (Norcal) region. The races are divided into groups: freshman, sophomore, junior varsity and varsity. The top 75 percent for each section qualify to go to State, where the northern and southern California conferences meet for one integrated race. The amount of laps in the race increases as a racer moves up the ranks, starting at 2 laps for freshman increasing to 4-5 for Varsity racers.
In previous years, the team held the back-to-back State Champion titles. But recently, the team has fallen short in claiming the title. According to coach Peter Brockman, the team is looking to place at least in the top three in the state.
The 2016 team came in 4th in State and 5th in 2015. The previous three years before the 2015 season, the team came home as champions of the state race. Tam and Drake continue to be their biggest rivals.
However the team does not lack potential. In 2016, Anderson claimed the number one spot in the sophomore division in States. Moving up to the varsity division this year, Anderson hopes to continue placing in the top spots.
The team has numerous coaches who are parents of students previously and currently on the team. This includes Brockman, the father of Viveka Brockman, who graduated last year. Viveka was on the team for all four of her years at Redwood, and her father is continuing to coach for his fifth year. Other parent coaches include Rodney Loo and Hugh Marasa.
“Normally there’s four of us that are always here, [and] probably 10 more that come and go,” Brockman said.
According to Johnson, the fact that the coaches are parent volunteers doesn’t mean that their skill and dedication falls short or lacks previous experience. In fact, Brockman dedicates a lot of time and effort to the team.
“It’s developing kids as young adults, preparing them for when they are off on their own. The camaraderie helps the kids learn to be much more responsibility,” Brockman said.
According the Johnson, the team has a lot of new racers joining the team this year that will strengthen the team in numbers, skill and passion.
“We got a lot of new kids this year which is great. Last year we had a kind of small team, and we lost a big portion of our graduating class which was a good fifth of our team,” Anderson said.
Freshman Haley Randel, who has been attending the team’s practices for two years, is one of the numerous new riders.
“It’s really great because the last two years I haven’t been able to do the Norcal races. It will be really fun to actually have the race experience with my teammates,” Randel said.
The newcomers’ experience ranges across all levels. Kim, who started racing competitively in the summer of 6th grade, was introduced to the sport early.
“The first time I ever went on a mountain biking trail was when I was six years old. My dad and I went to China Camp,” Kim said.
But not all of Kim’s teammates had early exposure to the trails. For Anderson, it was his first time mountain biking when he joined freshman year.
“It was a big learning curve. I had biked to school just about every day in elementary school but mountain biking is pretty hard. I got the hang of it pretty quick. It took me about a month until I was riding with the older kids,” Anderson said.
The sport allows racers of all skill levels to proceed at any pace and competition level.
“It’s not like any sport we have here at Redwood. The atmosphere is so different. It’s not super competitive but if you want to go really hard and be competitive, you can do that. But no one is going to judge if you just want to have fun,” Anderson said.
Mountain biking has no confinement, and the open-endedness of the sport attracts riders like Johnson.
“Part of the reason I love it because it’s so accessible in terms from here. I can literally just ride 10 minutes from my backyard and be on the mountain within the hour so it’s super easy to ask a friend to go on a ride,” Johnson said.
This allows mountain bikers a temporary outlet into the surrounding nature.
“It’s really just a way for me to get out and just forget about all my school problems and stuff that’s going on at home. [Biking is] a way to zone in on what you’re doing, just a great escape,” Anderson said.
For Johnson, starting the sport allowed him to get more involved and spirited.
“I really like it because it’s one of the first sports I’ve really gotten excited about, in terms of school sports. When I was in middle school, I didn’t really care about school sports but when I started going to mountain biking races it made me a lot more spirited and I started paying more attention to other school sports,” Johnson said.
Like most racers, Randall is drawn towards mountain biking because of the personal reward it offers.
“It’s really fun you can just get so much speed and it builds a lot of confidence. You get to be proud of yourself for accomplishing such a great thing,” Randall said.
Like most of the racers, the reward the sport offers for coaches is plentiful.
“As coaching, it’s great, seeing a kid barely make it up a hill one year and then racing in a National championship all smiles another, that’s the payoff,” Brockman said.
Their first races are February 24 and 25 against all Norcal teams.