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Chambersburg finds success with mountain bike team

For so many high school athletes, just being a part of something new can be exciting.

But to have a lot of success makes it that much sweeter.

This year, for the first time ever, Chambersburg sponsored a competitive mountain bike team, which finished fifth in a five-race circuit featuring 21 Pennsylvania teams.

"It was really exciting to be a part of this," said Devin Ditzler, a sophomore at the Career Magnet School. "Biking is almost like being with your second family. You go up and can camp or stay in a hotel, but you're there at a race for the whole weekend with your second family. I enjoyed that."

The team, aptly named the Chambersburg Mountain Bike Team (CMBT), was formed this year as a part of the start-up Pennsylvania Interscholastic Cycling League (PICL). The PICL began this year under the National Interscholastic Cycling Assocation (NICA) umbrella, and featured 21 teams across the state that are made up of both high school and middle school-aged students.

Chambersburg's team, which boasts nearly 20 competitors, has racers from Chambersburg Area Senior High School, CMS and both middle schools. The team was formed out of the Trojans' former cycling club.

"Between the high school and Career Magnet School, we had a base of about eight kids on the club team when we started in July," CMBT coach Chad Zimmerman said. "By August when we really started practicing, it nearly doubled just through word of mouth."

And next year, the hope for a bigger team is even higher after Chambersburg's initial success.

Each competitor races within his or her age group, and awards are given out for age-group winners, and team standings are calculated. After CMBT's final race in Fair Hill, Md., earlier this month, the squad stood at fifth overall.

Aidan Brechbill earned the title of state champion in the sophomore male division.

"It was only my second year of competitive racing, but I've been riding my whole life," Brechbill said. "With where I live in Mont Alto, I have all that mountain around me. I go up there and ride a lot and train; I work on climbing skills and sprints, so I think that helped me succeed in the season."

This year's race series was made up of five races, but only four counted toward an individual's point total. In the first four races, Brechbill competed within his sophomore division and won all four races. In the final competition at Fair Hill, Brechbill elected to move up to the junior varsity age division, which races the same course but has three loops instead of the sophomores' four. Despite competing an age-level above, Brechbill won the race.

Ditzler was second in the final race, while Ella Pisle, CMBT's only female competitor, was third in her division.

"It's different being the only girl, but it's also really fun," said Pisle, an eighth grader at CAMS North. "We all get along so well. The races really depend on where you go. Most of them are hilly, but some of them are easier. There was one (Boyce Park in Pittsburgh) that was really hard, so it really just depends."

CMBT has already turned its focus toward next season and generating more interest.

"I personally thought it was really cool to be on the first team because we're making history racing," Brechbill said. "I thought that was really cool, and I'm hoping that I can do it again next year. I had a lot of fun this season."

Zimmerman said, "One of the things we've stressed is that it's a safe environment to have kids do a different type of sport. They don't have to worry about being benched because every single kid on the team rides. Everyone gets to contribute, so that's one of the big appeals to it."