This fall marked the beginning of a first for GFS—and Maryland—as Garrison Forest added a mountain biking team to its list of Upper School fall sports. GFS joined the Maryland Interscholastic Cycling league, which is in its first year in the state, as the only girls’ school in Maryland to participate. The Maryland Interscholastic Cycling League was organized in 2017 to provide a fun, safe and high-quality mountain biking program for students in grades 6 to 12.
The idea was sparked when athletic director Traci Davis, parent Gretchen Townsend (Sydney ‘21) and Upper School science teacher Sue McQuiston, all long-time bikers, attended a presentation about the league at a local bike shop. They thought it would be great to bring the team to GFS and collaborated with parent and faculty volunteers to help coordinate. “We thought it would be a great opportunity to provide another fun and challenging sport to the community,” said Ms. Davis.
Throughout the season, the team had 10 regular participants in grades 9-12. As many of the girls also play other fall sports, the students practiced in the summer and on weekends to get ready for the season. Weekend races took place all over Maryland, and the bikers traveled to locations like Elkton and Germantown to compete with the 15 teams and just under 200 riders in the league.
“The girls have loved getting to know the other teams in Maryland,” said Ms. Townsend. “This league doesn’t have the same pressure as some other sports, so it’s been a great way for the kids just to get outside and have fun,” This spirit has allowed students of a wide range of levels of experience to embrace the sport. The team boasted two Points Leaders, Audrey ’20 and Molly ’21, who received leaders’ jerseys for racing in every race that they were able to be a part of. Many of the other GFS racers also received medals for their competition. Serena ’19 did not know how to ride a two-wheel bike when she first became interested in the team. In a true showing of GFS’ You Can, You Will spirit, she not only learned with the help of her teammates and coaches, but competed in and finished her first race this fall.
The fall season wrapped up in November, but the students have already started to make plans to keep riding and to get prepared for next season. They worked to create a 2-mile bike trail around the perimeter of the school to be able to practice riding on campus and have made plans to continue to get together to ride on trails throughout the year. As the team hopes to get even more participation from students when practices resume again in the summer, the Upper School bikers will present to the 8th Grade after winter break to get the rising 9th Grade excited to join the team next fall.