COLUMBUS, Ohio — For over a year, many children were cooped up in the house with nowhere to go and nothing to do. The Ohio Interscholastic Cycling League (OICL) is changing that by bringing competitive mountain bike racing to the state for the first time and getting kids outside and moving.
Offering a fun and competitive outdoor activity for children age 10 and older, kids from across the state took off at the OICL’s third race of the year. Executive Director Jen Malik worked with other Ohio bikers to get a league set up. She worked with the National Interscholastic Cycling Association to get a chapter established in Ohio, and after about a year and a half, the league was able to host their first race.
It’s been a tough year for kids, she said, and this gives them an interactive outlet after an isolated year.
“A lot of student athletes, that at the beginning, they were like, 'I don’t know — I just want to ride my bike,' which is totally awesome and also encouraged,” said Malik. “But then to watch them be like, 'oh my gosh, I want to go to all of the events' and just like seeing that confidence as they meet these obstacles.”
Malik is also an assistant coach for the Synergy Composite Mountain Bike Team. On her team, you’ll find 16-year-old Avery Phillips. He has always been competitive, playing team sports in middle and high school. But that all came to a halt once the pandemic hit. Learning at home with not much else to do, he got acquainted with his bike in the garage and has been obsessed with the sport ever since.
“I had just had a bike laying around, and I just picked it up, started riding around on it,” said Phillips. "It was pretty fun. Then I started to learn how to do a few tricks that I saw on Instagram and the internet and just kind of went from there. It's just been really fun, and I fell in love with it pretty quick."
While biking is a new found love, Phillips' mind is already set on the professional leagues. Balancing school and biking, he said the sport has given him a new outlook on life.
“It helps build a really good strong mindset with things,” said Phillips. “Like you never really want to give up and just kind of have a better mentality I think and definitely convert over to stuff in your life."
Ohio's Interscholastic Cycling League will host their next race in Dover on Oct. 9.