John Jay boasts rare mountain bike team

Thanks in large part to the efforts of John Jay High School sophomore Lucas Smallidge, Lewisboro has become home to one of the first school mountain bike teams in New York, one that is currently ranked third in the state.

“Knowing that John Jay didn’t have a team, I decided I should contact someone and get together a team and that is where Brittany came in,” Lucas said of Brittany Serra. “She is the driving force behind putting it all together.”

Lucas Smallidge, 15, works on a mountain bike for auction at Gossett’s Farm Market on Saturday, Sept. 28.

Lucas Smallidge, 15, works on a mountain bike for auction at Gossett’s Farm Market on Saturday, Sept. 28. Lucas is a member of John Jay High School’s mountain bike team. (Reece Alvarez photo)

Ms. Serra coaches the John Jay High School mountain bike club, which is part of the New York High School Cycling League. She said it includes 12 teams and that more are expected to join this season, which starts in January.

Currently the John Jay team consists of eight sophomores, including one female. The club accepts members from outside Lewisboro and currently has riders from North Salem and Ridgefield.

Ms. Serra turns the credit right back around to Lucas and his cyclist parents, Melanie and Michael Smallidge of South Salem. It was at the 2012 Library Fair where Ms. Smallidge and Lucas, having biked to the fair, first caught the attention of Bronxville High School mountain bike club coach Jonathan Peter, who introduced Lucas and his family to Ms. Serra, she said.

As a board member of the New York High School Cycling League and a South Salem resident, Ms. Serra was an obvious choice, but she was reluctant to coach the team because of how talented its cyclists were.

“He [Lucas] was better than me from day one,” she said. “I was hesitant to coach because these kids are so good. Lucas in particular is very strong technically — rocks, roots and really technical terrain, he just powers through it.”

Lucas said he has been riding competitively since he was 10 years old and was the only member of the team to race outside of his freshmen bracket, racing with varsity and junior varsity athletes in the club’s opening season during the winter and spring of 2013.

“We didn’t feel like it was fair for him to race freshmen because he is such an experienced rider,” Ms. Serra said. “He wanted to race JV, but we didn’t realize that he was also going to be racing against varsity kids, too.”

During one race last school year, Lucas competed against professional mountain bikers, including a national cycling champion from Bermuda with whom Lucas was able to contend at the start.

“It was an overwhelming group of kids, but I was so impressed with Lucas,” Ms. Serra said. “He battled back and forth with the kid from Bermuda and he ended up taking fourth. It was the longest race he had done, he had hard competition and he really went out there and fought as well as he could. I see so much potential in Lucas, as well as the other riders.”

Community support

In name, the JJHS mountain bike club represents the Katonah-Lewisboro school district, but the club is actually unaffiliated.

“Our situation is very common, where we have the name of the school or local town but we don’t actually have an official relationship with the school,” Ms. Serra said.

Lucas, Brittany Serra and Sean McCarthy, below, were at Gossett’s to raise money for the John Jay High School mountain bike club, which competes against about a dozen teams throughout New York state.

Brittany Serra, Sean McCarthy and Lucas were at Gossett’s to raise money for the John Jay mountain bike club, which competes against about a dozen teams throughout New York state. (Reece Alvarez photo)

Through the support of local businesses, parents and fund-raising efforts, the club is able to afford expenses from race and league registrations to travel fees and equipment. Local businesses like IAA TEAM Sports and Bluebird Homemade Ice Cream support the team financially, while parents donate time and their cycling experience to help grow the team.

Mr. Smallidge, for example, was the owner of Pedal and Pump in Darien before the store closed and donated a mountain bike auctioned during the club’s recent bike wash fund-raiser at Gossett’s Farm Market, which helped raise more than $100, which Ms. Serra said will go a long way for group.

Ms. Serra’s husband, Lorenzo, also sponsors the club through his Meccanic Shop North Inc. in North Salem and helps the team through his skill in mountain biking.

Ms. Serra and her husband are avid mountain bikers; Mr. Serra is currently training for a 2,745-mile endurance mountain bike race stretching from Canada to Mexico. Ms. Serra is not training for the race and admits that sometimes her skills are not enough to challenge her athletes.

“I want to give them as much as I can to bring them to their full potential,” she said. “Even though sometimes I’m not able to, I try to find whatever outlet I can to give them that extra leg up.”

Sometimes that outlet is the expertise of mountain bikers like her husband and local groups like the Ridgefield Bicycle Co. who dedicate their time to train the JJHS mountain bike club.

“Those guys [the Ridgefield Bicycle Co.] have been awesome,” Ms. Serra said. “They have really stepped in and helped with some of our stronger athletes.”

At other times it is the regional, non-league events the club goes to or year-round practices Ms. Serra pushes for that keep the team in shape, but the support and training are not enough, Ms. Serra said.

Expanding

The group is eager to become recognized by JJHS and become a school-sanctioned program. While funding is a partial motivation, the club wants the affiliation more for the recruiting of new members and facilities for training, Ms. Serra said.

Training outdoors is dependent on the weather and is sometimes impossible during the winter, she said. The team needs access to training equipment in an environment where coaches can be on hand and interest in the club can grow.

“I need the kids to stay in shape,” Ms. Serra said. “Right now they can use the gym, but myself, Lucas’s mom, trainers, and coaches can’t be in there because we are not approved.”

Ms. Serra said she met with JJHS athletic director Christian McCarthy last year, but has since been unable to reopen a line of communication despite numerous attempts.

“The problem is we haven’t been able to do much outreach in the high school,” Ms. Serra said. “I think there will be plenty of interest — everywhere this program has gone it has taken time to get stared, but I don’t know too many people who don’t like to ride their bike. There are a lot of kids without sports that are looking for something that’s not a huge commitment; this is a little more casual than your football team or lacrosse team.”

She said that the school has shown an appreciation for the group, though, allowing the club to use the John Jay name and accepting the club’s third-place state trophy.

The value of mountain biking is its attraction as a non-traditional sport and ability to be a continuous source of physical fitness and community, Ms. Serra said.

“Whether you are someone who plays a sport or doesn’t already have a sport to play, it is this great equalizer,” she said. “We have kids that are on the lacrosse team, that play soccer, that are actors — this is a sport that brings something from all of these sports and activities. This is something outdoors they can all do together. It is really a lifelong sport.”

About author

By participating in the comments section of this site you are agreeing to our Privacy Policy and User Agreement

© HAN Network. All rights reserved. Lewisboro Ledger, 16 Bailey Avenue, Ridgefield, CT 06877

Designed by WPSHOWER

Powered by WordPress