BENTONVILLE -- Northwest Arkansas cycling enthusiasts have earned the support of a national organization to begin a mountain biking program for student-athletes across the state.
Bentonville residents Alan Ley and Kyla Templeton led the effort to gain Arkansas' admission to the National Interscholastic Cycling Association. They submitted a 30-page proposal to the association earlier this year.
A kickoff party to celebrate the new league will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Monday at The Pedaler’s Pub, 410 S.W. A St. in Bentonville. Registration is available at www.BikeBentonville.com. The deadline to register is Saturday.
The event, sponsored by Arvest Bank, will feature an auction of a bicycle and bike helmets painted by local artists. All proceeds go to help start bike teams at Arkansas schools. Officials from the National Interscholastic Cycling Association will attend.
Source: Staff report
"We had to put together a business plan that said, 'Here are the resources we have, here are the venues we have for races, and here's the leadership team we have of key people around the state,'" Ley said.
The association informed the Arkansas group about a month ago it accepted its proposal. A group from Pennsylvania also was chosen, Ley said.
The Arkansas National Interscholastic Cycling Association Project League will launch next year with teams, training and racing opportunities for junior high and high school students.
Organizers have two major tasks ahead of them in the next year: raising money and recruiting coaches. Their fundraising goals are $30,000 this year and $50,000 next year. That money will go toward starting teams, training coaches and buying supplies for races, according to Templeton.
Organizers are focused on getting the league established in Northwest Arkansas, but they hope to see it catch on across the state.
"I've been extremely surprised by the number of inquiries about the program," Ley said. "I think it's something people really want."
Templeton is founder of Girls Bike Bentonville, a women's cycling group. She hopes the league will expose more teens to the benefits of biking.
"Getting teams started in a lot of schools will make kids realize there are other options besides the traditional school sports," Templeton said.
The national association is affiliated with leagues in 14 states, according to its website. Being part of the association gives Arkansas access to the resources and knowledge needed to set up and run a league, Templeton said.
"It helps us to hit the ground running," she said.
Dave Neal and his wife, Becci, own Mojo Cycling in Bentonville. A mountain biking league will do more than just teach kids about cycling, Dave Neal said.
"They may get scouted and get on university race teams," he said. "Which means this could be a way for kids to stay active their whole lives and possibly pay for their education."
Then there are the health benefits, he said.
"It allows them to get interested in being outside rather than sitting on the sofa and gives them a lifestyle of being active instead of being sedentary," Neal said.
Ley called cycling "an equal-opportunity" sport.
"You can be skinny or big. You don't have to be a body builder. You just need to get out and ride and practice," Ley said.
He views it as a sport all schools can compete in.
"I think this would be a great project for some of the smaller schools," Ley said. "I think some of the smaller schools will look at this and say, 'This is something we can do and be competitive at it.'"
The Bentonville School District is prepared to jump on board with the league, said Paul Stolt, the district's director of communications.
"It's a good opportunity for kids who may not be into the traditional sports," Stolt said.
The league will have a table set up at this week's First Friday event in downtown Bentonville, alongside other school-related booths. The theme of the event is back to school.
Dave Perozek can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @NWADaveP.
NW News on 08/05/2015