This Saturday between 350 and 400 high school riders from across the province will descend on Whistler to take part in the B.C. High School Mountain Bike Championships, and a newly created team from Whistler Secondary will be hoping to turn homefield advantage into points.
Dori Faulkner, who started the extremely successful program at Don Ross Secondary, started to teach at Whistler Secondary this year. She has built a team with about 20 members and so far they've taken part in five of the North Shore mountain bike league events hosted through the Lower Mainland - including an event in Whistler on May 12.
While putting kids on the podium is the main goal, the points system is structured to reward numbers as much as skill, and to that end she's hoping to field as many athletes as possible this weekend.
"I think our bantam boys are hoping to win a trophy at the provincial level, that's the goal for that group, but as for the team as a whole we're just trying to get as many people out as possible," she said.
It's not easy to get riders out. Some of her athletes are ranked among the top athletes in the province and Canada and will be away this weekend at a Canada Cup. However, other schools will be in the same situation, especially the teams from Squamish that have dominated the high school league in recent years with large, talented teams.
The athletes on the Whistler team train twice a week with members of Team Whistler and WORCA youth coaches. There has been a remarkable improvement from some of the rides, says Faulkner.
"It's pretty exciting to see these kids improve from week to week," she said. "I had a good idea how talented they were but it's neat when they realize it themselves."
The B.C. High School Mountain Bike championships take place on Saturday at Spruce Grove Park, and use a selection of trails in the Lost Lake network. It takes the faster riders roughly 20 minutes to complete a lap and 45 minutes for the slower groups.
There will be a wave start for Grade 8 and 9 boys at 10:30 a.m., then girls in Grades 8 through 10. The seniors will go at 11:30 a.m. and the awards are scheduled for 1:30 p.m.
Organizers are looking for volunteers to help marshall the race, and will require at least 24 people on course. If you can spare a few hours on Saturday to help out, contact Dori Faulkner at firstname.lastname@example.org.