The Utah High School Cycling League will be kicking off its third season this week in September. The kickoff for the season will include the debut of the Junior Development race, taking place at Soldier Hollow. The league is one of the most quickly growing and largest groups within the National Interscholastic Cycling Association.
“This year, we’re piloting a Junior Development program to introduce middle school students to mountain biking, with an emphasis on skills, fun and fitness,” said Utah High School Cycling League Executive Director, Lori Harwood, in an interview with Deseret News. The league has almost doubled in size from its 2012 to 2013 season. There are now approximately 850 student athletes on 51 teams, as well as 179 students involved with the Junior Development program.
“Thanks to the enthusiasm and dedication of our student athletes, volunteers and donors, it’s going to be a phenomenal season of racing, camaraderie and fun,” said Harwood. Like many states, Utah is constantly looking for ways to get students further involved in fitness, along with healthy eating. While about 82% of schools have a gym, and 79% have a weight room, not all students feel drawn to the more traditional gym activities, which is why options like biking can be useful.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 11% of Utah’s high school students qualify as overweight, while 6.5% qualify as obese. While these numbers are fairly positive, the numbers quickly skyrocket in adulthood; 57% of adults are overweight, and 23% are obese. Schools hope to start young adults on a positive pathway for fitness that will follow them later in life.
Similarly, the Healthy, Hungry-Free Kids Act of 2012, which went into effect the same year, required schools nationwide to meet specific nutritional guidelines. Utah state officials have since adopted fun ways to get kids interested in healthy food, such as setting up “stir fry” stations with healthy vegetables.