Missouri will join an impressive list of state leagues in the rapidly growing National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA), the national governing body for interscholastic mountain biking in the United States. Missouri joins the 2020-21 class, bringing the national total to 27 leagues.

“I couldn’t be more excited to partner with NICA to bring middle and high school mountain biking to Missouri,” said Missouri League Director Chris Mileski. “By getting more kids on bikes, young Missourians will experience firsthand everything that the sport of mountain biking has to offer: the freedom of being outdoors, the happiness of making new friends, the thrill of overcoming challenges, the pride of developing discipline and character, and the honor of building community.

“Given Missouri’s rich history of cycling and the prestige of the Ozark Trail system, this is a big win for all kids and families in our state,” MIleski continued. “NICA sees a future where every American youth has the opportunity to build strong mind, body, character and community through cycling. Their core values promote skills development, excellence, teamwork, professionalism and respect for community and the environment.”

The founding team of the Missouri Interscholastic Cycling League includes Ralph Pfremmer, Jill Heneghan, Dana Wilkerson, Lindsay Firestone, Michelle Bagwell, Greg Wittner, Sarah Lawrence-Lohse, Amanda Lappe, Brad Kovach, Jay Thomas, Kerri Mileski and regional coordinators Bill Plank, Renee Thierry, Matt Johnson, Ben Nagy and Peter Krause.

Without their leadership and other contributions across the Show Me State, none of this would’ve been possible,” said MIleski. “Additionally, I would like to recognize David Krajcovic, Christian Hon, Off the Front Racing and the Team Noah Foundation for their generous donations and initial support of the Missouri Interscholastic Cycling League.”

NICA President Austin McInerny said, “Under Chris Mileski’s leadership, the Missouri League is off to a great start and are clearly living up to their state’s official motto, ‘Salus Populi Suprema Lex Esto’, which means ‘Let the welfare of the people be the supreme law’, as we have seen that when communities rally behind mountain biking, everyone involved benefits in a number of ways.

“Bringing NICA to Missouri will provide opportunities for youth to build strong body, mind and character through cycling as well as strong economic benefits to the communities that embrace the power of interscholastic cycling,” McInerny continued. “With the addition of Missouri, NICA now has the infrastructure in place to serve over 72 percent of the country’s population; we are well on our way towards fulfilling our mission of providing every American teenager the opportunity to participate in NICA programming through a school or community-based cycling team.”

Brad Huff, Missouri Honorary Board Member, who hails from Springfield said, “I started riding a mountain bike in high school. I can only imagine how many more of my peers would have joined in if there were more accessibility to trails and youth-focused events. NICA is reshaping how our youth view the outdoors, exploration and self-empowerment. I raise my hand high in support of Missouri and the entire nation accepting NICA as an emerging force that will truly make a difference in every youth’s life for many years to come.”

Scott Moninger, Missouri resident and Honorary Board Member, added, “I’ve seen firsthand how a NICA League can transform a generation of kids. I will do everything in my power to assist and support the NICA League in Missouri.”

Following in the footsteps of neighboring Arkansas, the addition of Missouri to the NICA network greatly increases the accessibility of interscholastic cycling for kids in the Midwest. Across the U.S., NICA’s growing community includes established leagues in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Northern California, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Southern California, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

St. Louis resident Carrie Cash summed it up best, “Outdoors, fresh air, wildlife, birds, butterflies, rivers, streams, trails to anywhere the heart desires — that is Missouri. Natural beauty, amazing forestry and the Ozark Mountains is what draws people to see the parks and landscapes of Missouri, which lends itself to some of the most inspiring outdoor experiences. Mountain biking is the fastest growing interest and mode to see and feel it all.

“There are many activities for young individuals and teens; however, to build self-confidence, skills, respect and knowledge in this arena takes a non-traditional way of thinking. It’s my belief that the aspects of hard work and respect for the natural environment start with such activities as helping build and maintain trail. Aside from the actual benefits of a lifelong sport such as cycling, kids who may find themselves disinterested in traditional team sports, or do not have the same social confidence to dive into, or feel comfortable being placed into these settings, flourish within NICA.

“During my professional cycling career, I often wondered where NICA was when I was a kid? I knew how to ride a bike but felt limited to transit only to the neighbor’s and back, or to school. NICA not only allows young individuals to experience life from two wheels but also fosters a love and advocacy for the natural environment. The Missouri Interscholastic Cycling League will offer juniors a way to build relationships, experience competition from the other side of the team coin and drive their dedication for individual successes. Simultaneously, it will bring fresh minds and enthusiasm to Missouri’s growing outdoor scene.

“I believe it is our responsibility to ignite a child’s ambition and curiosity. All kids should have the opportunity to pedal through the woods, hear nature, see the trees fly by and experience competition through the same lens. Without two wheels, a plane could never take flight. Give us a bike with two wheels, a singletrack runway and watch Missouri’s kids soar to great heights!”

Image: By Robert Lowe, courtesy of NICA