By Bill Foley
The Butte Copper Sprockets will not compete in their first race until Saturday.
Team head coach Bears Stillwagon, though, has already deemed the inaugural season of the interscholastic mountain bike team a huge success.
“It’s a good first year,” Stillwagon said as the Copper Sprockets get ready for the Crosscut Classic, which is Saturday in Bozeman.
Stillwagon is basing that on the numbers, enthusiasm and participation for the team that has been practicing regularly since the spring.
The Copper Sprockets roster includes 16 riders from sixth through 12th grade, though everyone on the roster might not be racing on Saturday.
“I talked with other teams that only had three,” Stillwagon said.
The Butte team has 12 coaches. They are Mike Bordun, Bryan Cyr, Gina Evans, Kirby Lorengo, David Lutke, Jesse Myers, Jamie Ritter, Dave Silk, Wil Stillens, Mandy Tippett, Gary Wyss and Stillwagon.
Grace Luoma, a key member of Butte High’s golf team, is the lone senior on the Butte roster. That roster includes junior John Renouard; sophomores John Ryan and Scott Smith; freshman Max Kluck; eighth graders Ethan Clearwater, Hanna Kluck, Coen Lutke, Will Silk, Jaymz Smith and Aidan Sorich; seventh grader Jim Bradshaw; and sixth graders Niles Borduin, Ben McAdams, Hazel Ryan and Caden Tippett.
Stillwagon pointed out that the team includes four female riders who are part of the NIC’s GRiT program. That stands for “Girls Riding Together,” and Ritter is the coach who coordinates the effort to involve more girls and women in the sports.
“We made it a focus on our team and our league to promote women and girls,” Stillwagon said.
The Crosscut Classic, which begins at 9:30 a.m., ranges from 3.8 miles to 15.2 miles, depending on the age range of the riders. The 3.8-mile course includes 500 feet of climbing, something the Butte team has been working on during practice behind Big Butte.
Saturday’s race is the first of four races the Copper Sprockets will compete in during the inaugural season of the Montana Interscholastic Cycling League, which is affiliated with the National Interscholastic Cycling League.
The team will also race in the Herron Hustle Sept. 7 in Kalispell, the Lolo Liftoff Sept. 21 in Lolo and the Copper City Crusher Oct. 5 north of Three Forks.
The coaches do not know exactly what to expect as the Copper Sprockets head to their first competition. They just know that they’ve already won knowing that competition is now a reality.
They hope their great numbers get even better when the Copper Sprockets begin their second season.
“That’s the plan,” Stillwagon said.