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Spartan Scoop

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Spartan Scoop


All about the National Interscholastic Cycling Association
Jadis Veal
A mammoth riding a bicycle

The Missoula Mammoths is a mountain biking program with the NICA for kids ages 6th to twelve graders at all MCPS high schools. 

At Sentinel High School our beloved Margaret Dennison and Josh Jannusch are coaches this year for the Missoula Mammoths. 

NICA is the National Interscholastic Cycling Association. Founded in 2009, this organization gives kids and student athletes an opportunity to go on adventures, to endeavor new challenges through mountain biking, and to build a strong community.

You do not have to be extremely skilled or advanced in bike riding: all levels of experience are welcome and encouraged to join.

It’s not about who’s the best, it’s about learning together. It’s important for them to value respect, inclusivity, fun, equity, and community.

Their mission is to “build strong minds, bodies, character, and communities through cycling”. 

Sixth through eighth grade students just race their grade, while the high school students race other high schools. They start training in July and their final race is in October.

Yes it’s competitive, but that’s not their main goal. The Missoula Mammoths explain it as, “…racing is an inherently competitive endeavor, but the ultimate priority of all NICA activities is upholding the core values of “Fun, Inclusivity, Equity, Respect, and Community”.

The program does not have anything to do with MCPS schools directly. Students just sign up with their school, then during races they wear their school’s jersey.

Not only bringing students from middle school to high school, they have volunteering coaches. All of their coaches are dedicated and loving to help kids as well as cycling themselves. 

All the coaches go through the NICA Coach Training then they have the opportunity to get out on the bikes with their students. 

They have a very strict coach to student ratio to keep it intimate and genuine. For every eight students there are two coaches. 

There are a handful of Sentinel students that participate as well as other MCPS high schools; there was even a student from Corvallis that joined. 

Dennison explains how wonderful and fun it is to work with students in a different light.  When asked what it’s like to work with her own students from school, she said, “Let me tell you, teenagers are a lot braver [than they are at school]”.

She said she only got a few math related questions, but it’s a good way to connect and bond with each other outside the classroom.

Not only is it great for high schoolers, but also for younger kids as well. Dennsion explains how some of the kids start off a little nervous at first, “but once they get comfortable it’s crazy what they are capable of”.

The improvement all students go through as the season goes on is exhilarating to witness as a coach. One thing that Dennison wants to encourage students to do is to just try it out.

It can always be intimidating to start a new sport or hobby, but it’s important to know that competitiveness is not their main focus. NICA wants to see students become athletes that are “gracious and respectful to their coaches, peers, and community”.

Sign up is during the spring 2024, don’t be afraid to try something new!

About the Contributors
Lexi Bartholomew
Lexi Bartholomew, Reporter
my spotify playlists are cooler than yours
Jadis Veal
Jadis Veal, Illustrator
"Where's everyone going? Bingo?"- Leon Kennedy