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Clarkson Professor looking to start mountain biking club at Potsdam high school

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POTSDAM - Pending formal approval from the board of education, which is expected at its next meeting, Potsdam High School will become home to the county’s first mountain biking team.

The board of education listened to a presentation on the team at its meeting this week.

Potsdam Superintendent Patrick H. Brady said he was approached by Douglas G. Bohl, a professor at Clarkson University, and Philip Foisy, who teaches social studies in the district.

“It’s a pretty exciting idea and a good opportunity for our kids,” he said.

Mr. Bohl said roughly a dozen students have expressed interest in the club and are hoping to participate in their first race next month.

“My goal is for the club to participate in two races this spring,” he wrote in a letter to the board. “Tentatively they are: April 27 in Albany and June 1 in New Windsor.”

The June 1 race is considered the state championship.

“The goal of this club is to provide an opportunity to learn mountain biking skills in a structured program, race with the league, learn to appreciate the outdoors and have some serious fun with a sport the kids can participate in for a lifetime,” he said.

Mr. Bohl, who described himself as “an avid biker,” said he will be assisted by other adult volunteers including, Philip Foisy, Shannon Fryberg and Jim Aikens, all of whom he described as “great mountain bikers.”

“Safety is our number one priority. We focus on basic skills like balance, handling and turning,so that the kids learn how to mountain bike safely,” he said. “There are inherent dangers involved in mountain biking, as there are with any sport. Most of the accidents in mountain bike occur at low speeds and involve bruising, cuts, etc.”

Mr. Bohl compared the sport to cross-country and said much of the team’s practice would take place on the trails at Clarkson.

“The NICA races are “cross country” or XC mountain bike races. They are much like cross country running races, but on bikes. The races last 1-2 hours depending on the category being raced,” he said, adding Potsdam students will not be competing in downhill or slalom races and there will be no jumping involved.

Mr. Bohl said he would like to begin practice as soon as possible by using stationary bikes indoors until the weather clears.

He said participants would be covered by an insurance policy held by the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA).

The cost for a student to register with NICA is $50, with a $30 fee for each race.

“I am going to ask each child for dues of $25 for club,” he said. “These dues will be used to register the team and purchase some supplies. We will also be having team biking jerseys made up.”

Those jerseys are expected to cost $80.

While this may sound expensive, Mr. Bohl said he is confident the fees will not prevent students from participating.

“I do not want cost of lack of equipment to be a barrier. Wear on Earth (a sporting good store in Potsdam) has indicated a willingness to donate some bikes to the club, and I have started to find other donations from the community to support the club,” he said. “We do not plan to ask the district for financial support for the club.”

As the club continues to grow Mr. Bohl said he would one day like to see a races hosted in Potsdam.

Noting that the club includes a variety of grade levels, he said he thinks it is sustainable and will only grow in the future.

“It’s not just kids who are graduating,” he said. “There are kids who will be talking about it next year. and we’ll see where it goes from there.”

Among the students signed up to participate in the club is Mr. Bohl’s son, Bailey.

“I think this is good for people who don’t really enjoy traditional sports and want to try something different,” he said.

Board of education member J. Patrick Turbett agreed.

“There are kids out there that this could help,” he said.

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