Natalie's Everyday Heroes: Shorewood Mountain Bike Team
SHOREWOOD, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Mountain biking is growing in popularity here in Wisconsin. In fact, 71 schools in the state now have competitive mountain biking teams.
One of those districts is Shorewood. Since the program launched in 2014, coaches said they have noticed the sport is lacking in diversity. Wisconsin-based Trek is sponsoring a scholarship that is encouraging more students of color to ride.
"Four, three, two, one, go!" yelled Shorewood coach, Sydney Shimko.
With that quick countdown, the cyclists are off. The path may be paved, but these riders are part of the Shorewood Mountain Bike Team.
"Who's up next?" Shimko asked the group as two more riders set up on the line.
They practice on the Oak Leaf Trail during the week, before hitting wooded trails on race weekends.
"It's fun! It's so much fun," Shimko said.
The riders range from 6th to 12th grade. Kids can ride to practice on their own.
"We have two practices a week, and we come here to Estabrook, and we usually bike out somewhere on the Oak Leaf Trail," said team member Lena Cole.
It's also a great way to spend time outdoors.
"We've actually had kids say to us, the best thing about practice is that I'm not on my phone," Shimko said. "And when the kids can recognize that, you know you're doing something really well."
As for who gets to race on the team -- well, everyone.
"We are a kind of sport that has no cuts, we have no bench, everybody gets to participate," Shimko explained.
One thing, though, coaches have noticed since the team started in 2014, is a lack of diversity.
"The sport is not very diverse right now. Not very diverse at all," said coach, Ken Cole.
Cole said mountain biking has a ways to go to catch up with other sports.
"What's missing is representation," he said. "So, you see that in tennis and golf and all these other sports. And I think it's time for mountain biking, too."
Wisconsin-based Trek Bicycles is working to make that happen through a scholarship program for students of color.
"It was really amazing to get a brand-new bike, just like out of the blue," Lena Cole said.
Lena is Coach Cole's daughter, and also a Pathfinder scholar.
Last year, Trek and the National Interscholastic Cycling Association gave 250 scholarship winners new bikes and all the gear they need to compete.
"It came with a couple things, like the bike and the helmet and some clothes and just some gear in general for the bike," Lena Cole said.
"I was like using the gear all the time and I wanted to use it and it was very fun," said Jose Salazar, another Pathfinder scholar.
Salazar is a 6th grader at Atwater. He and his family moved to Shorewood from Colombia.
"It's so fun because we go on trails. We have fun. We learn a lot of stuff," Salazar said.
Since last year, Trek has gotten 500 applications for the Pathfinder scholarship. Cole said the best way to increase diversity is for kids to see themselves in the sport.
"Unless you see someone who looks like you, it's tough to realize yourself, or rather envision yourself doing something like this," he said.
Cole sees Milwaukee as a potential hub for urban mountain biking.
"More kids on bikes. More mountain bike teams. And most of all, I think, give kids a trail within the city. I think once we do that, things are going to change quickly," he said.
And that is a win for everyone.
"We just always want to make sure that that the team is open to everybody that might want to be on it," Shimko said.
"I love this community, and I have a lot of friends, and I feel very welcomed in Shorewood." Salazar said.
For more information on the Pathfinder scholarship, click here.
If you'd like to nominate an Everyday Hero, send Natalie a message at [email protected].