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Draper Journal

CCHS mountain biking team third best in state

Dec 02, 2022 12:44PM ● By Catherine Garrett

By Catherine Garrett | [email protected]

More than half of the Corner Canyon High mountain biking team qualified for the state championships this fall—that’s 135 riders out of the 220 members on the squad—and they all helped the defending state champion Chargers to a third-place finish in St. George Oct. 21 at the Utah High School Cycling League’s mountain biking state championships.

“That’s a really high number and we’re super proud of that,” said first-year head coach Paul Andersen, who has been an assistant with the program since it began in 2013.

CCHS had five state podiums within the top 10 spots including champion Brennon Pena in the freshman A boys division. Also earning All-State honors were Annika Gilson (third, JV B girls), Harrison Reading (sixth, varsity boys), Alyssa Meadows (seventh, JV A girls) and Morgan Taggart (10th, freshman girls).

“As with all races, we had our heartbreaks and mechanical struggles, but it’s not all about the race result, it’s about the hard work you put in,” Andersen said. “Sometimes that’s really what you can be proud of.”

The team placement for CCHS was the lowest it’s ever been as the Chargers or Lone Peak have owned the last seven titles, including four for Corner Canyon. This year, it was Skyline that won and Andersen said he is genuinely happy for the Eagles. “The nature of rivalries in mountain biking is very friendly,” he said. “There is no animosity among the teams.”

Corner Canyon is part of Region 3 within the Utah High School Cycling League and the Chargers rode in three regular season races this season. At Eagle Mountain Aug. 27, they played first as a team with Calvin Christensen (freshman B boys), Ethan Shirey (JV A boys) and Joe Hansen (varsity boys) winning their individual races.

At Cedar City Sept. 10, Brennon Pena (freshman A boys), Lauren Montague (freshman girls) and Shirey (JV A boys) won their events in leading Corner Canyon to first place.

At Soldier Hollow Sept. 24, the Chargers again won overall with Pena claiming first in the freshman A boys race.

The fourth race, held at Richfield Oct. 8, was the region championship with CCHS again coming out on top behind region champions Joe Hansen (varsity boys), Shirey (JV A boys) and Pena (freshman boys). Also making the podium at Region were Gilson (second, JV B girls), Lauren Montague (second, freshman girls), Reading (second, varsity boys), Ezra Thomas (second, freshman C boys), Taggart (third, freshman girls), Ella Balls (fourth, freshman girls), Alec Barnes (fourth, JV A boys), Jacob Hamblin (fourth, freshman A boys), Mason Quinton (fourth, JV B boys), Brooklyn Shallenberger (fourth, JV A girls), Brooklyn Bailey (fifth, JV A girls), Tate Larrabee (fifth, varsity boys), Luke Mendenhall (fifth, JV D boys), Madelynne Taggart (fifth, varsity girls), Bryce Flamm (sixth, freshman A boys), Ayden Graham (sixth, JV B boys), Lexi Wheatley (sixth, JV A girls), Parker Andersen (tied for seventh, varsity boys), Andrew Engh (tied for seventh, varsity boys), Daisy Miller (seventh, varsity girls), Michelle Petersen (seventh, JV B girls), Olivia Burton (eighth, JV B girls), Emma Rasmussen (ninth, JV B girls), Esmee Hadden (10th, JV A girls), William Harrison (10th, JV B boys), Olivia Lewis (JV B girls) and Jayda Nelson (10th, varsity girls).

The competition part of mountain biking is important for the Corner Canyon program, but Andersen said there is another aspect to this team that is even more meaningful. “We have a requirement of community service hours for our riders and we have collectively given over 1,000 hours on the Draper trails this year,” he said. “We pride ourselves on being courteous trail users and we work with the city and the Draper Trails Committee to do our part to take care of those trails.”

In seeking sponsors before the season, Andersen said they saw firsthand how much the Draper community has to offer and that there might be a greater need elsewhere. Draper resident Dallen Atack, who heads up the Utah High School Cycling League, told Andersen about a man named Richard Bennett who was trying to bring access to biking to Hilldale and start a program there.

“We realized we could create something that could have a direct impact so we reached out to the families on our team and we had more than 20 good racing bikes donated along with $7,000 to the Creek Valley Composite team,” Andersen said. “They ended up having 24 riders sign up for their team and it’s been life-changing for a program that had no funding and they have been so appreciative.”

Andersen, along with the help of his wife Jeni, have been heading up the Corner Canyon team this season, which still lays claim to the largest mountain biking program in the country, since training in the spring and then three-day-a-week 6:30 a.m. practices over the summer. But, they have not led the 220 riders without a ton of help. For each practice, 50 to 60 parents—and even those who aren’t affiliated with the program, including 2002 gold medalist speed skater Derek Parra—are needed to assist the separate ride groups which are based on ability.

“Every year we recruit ride leaders who go through a certification process with us and the Utah League,” Paul Andersen said, whose four sons have gone through the program, including their junior son Parker. “On our team, we have stuck to the welcoming culture that Whitney Pogue established where there are no tryouts and there is no physical or racing ability that is required. It does take a lot of time to manage it all and we’re all volunteers, but we’re so excited that it brings so much to these students who show up and are dedicated and motivated to practice and improve.”

Paul Andersen said one of the highlights of the season was seeing the hard work pay off for so many of the riders, particularly within the varsity ranks where 23 boys and nine girls made the field—which accounted for half of the region riders. He also noted the “great results all season” for the 76 girls on the team. “The girls worked so hard and they encouraged and built each other up all year,” he said. 

Paul and Jeni Andersen were assisted by Jeff Barnes, Jason Grimes, Tiff Grimes, Norm Krantz, Corey Larrabee, Mark Menlove, Ken Montague, Keawe Nalaui, Liz Shaespear, Seth Shearer and Mandy Sybrowsky on the coaching staff this season.

“This community is full of such great people and we also get great support from our school and administration,” Paul Andersen said. “That relationship couldn’t be better and we are grateful.”