Micah Wilkins, Staff Writer
The Warren Wilson mountain bike team finished in second place at Lees-McRae College Sept. 11, ranking them third in the nation and second in the Southeastern Collegiate Cycling Conference.
The team has already participated in three races throughout the Southeast and will compete in two more before the Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championships in California. According to the team’s head coach Cass Perkins, the Warren Wilson bikers have placed either second or third at Nationals for the past eight years.
The mountain bike team’s biggest competitors are Union College and Brevard College, both of which happen to be in the Southeast Conference.
“The teams we race against consistently place in the top five in Nationals, if not the top three,” Perkins said. “We’re in the most competitive conference for mountain biking.”
The Warren Wilson team ranks high nationally, but consists mostly of passionate individuals who enjoy sharing their interest with others.
“It’s just fun riding bikes, and it’s fun riding bikes with friends,” said junior Dylan Johnston, who joined the team this semester.
As a very small school, Warren Wilson is lucky to have nearly two dozen talented mountain bikers. According to senior Josh Hubing-Cooper, it’s the type of student that the college attracts that makes the team as successful as it is.
“We attract the kind of people that like to get muddy,” said Hubing-Cooper, who has been on the team for three years. “A lot of the other teams recruit people to ride on their mountain bike teams, whereas we don’t. It gives them a competitive edge. [Joining the college team] is by choice once we’re here.”
Warren Wilson students’ strong work ethic also makes them good mountain bikers, according to Coach Perkins.
“We have a pretty hardy group of people who are willing to work hard,” Perkins said. “You have to be able to work to come to school here, and you have to have good endurance.”
Another reason for the success of the team, said Hubing-Cooper, is the location of the college.
“We have the most premiere mountain biking in the nation,” he said. “The top three schools in mountain biking are all within a 150-mile radius of us.”
According to Coach Perkins, the campus and the trails around Wilson are perfect environments for practicing, and the college is looking to expand this space by cutting in addition trails.
“We also have a great environment for training, and hopefully we can improve upon that with more trails,” Perkins said. “Currently there are plans being looked at by the school to add to the trail system.”
When riding on these trails, however, the mountain bike team considers biking more of a hobby and an interest rather than a sport. Teammates find cycling to be a common passion and activity to perform together.
“Kids [like myself] do nerd out on bikes,” Johnston said. “It’s a good way to find people who like to do what you like to do. When other people are psyched on riding it makes it fun.”
The Mountain Bike Team has also established an “extremely close” and tight-knit community around the sport.
“We shred gnar as a team, which means ripping it, and being really intense,” Johnston said. “And we huck our meat. If you’re at the top of a hill and you’re not sure about it, someone yells, ‘Huck your meat!’ and you just go for it and you make it.”
“People are always seeing each other race and cheering each other on,” Johnston said. “There’s definitely good team spirit.”
Not only does the team cheer for its own members during events, said Hubing-Cooper, but they cheer for other teams as well.
The team has maintained both closeness as a community and success as a team despite certain changes since last year, according to Perkins.
“It’s been kind of a transition year,” Perkins said. “We’ve lost seven seniors, with only one returning female from the women’s team, so it’s been a rebuilding year… We’ve got a lot of new students and I think we’re doing a lot of new things and heading in the right direction.”
Perkins is confident that the team will come back from Nationals triumphant.
“I think that we have a very good chance of bettering our results from last year, if not repeating them,” said Perkins.