EDUCATION & SCHOOLS

Hildale high school bike team participates in regional race

Oct 1, 2022, 5:25 PM | Updated: Oct 3, 2022, 10:53 am

EAGLE MOUNTAIN, Utah — As the big race started getting closer, Denali Stubbs kept checking his gear.

“What time is it?” he asked.

He still had a couple of hours before the race began in Eagle Mountain and wanted to ensure his mountain bike was ready to go.

“I think it just needs to be loosened,” he said while turning a wrench.

Stubbs wanted to prove, again, he was someone to watch in the Utah High School Cycling League.

“In my first race, I started 63rd, and I came in second,” he said. “I didn’t know I could go that fast.”

Denali Stubbs, participant in the race.

Not bad for someone who just started racing this year, only because he came across the team at his hometown park.

“They had their little stand and stuff, and my aunt was over there, and she’s like, ‘hey, they’re doing this bike team, are you interested?’ I said ‘yeah,’” Stubbs said. “So that’s how I started talking to Richard.”

It just so happened that Richard Bennett was starting a high school mountain bike team after seeing its positive effects on his kids.

“My daughter and my son both race, and I saw the changes in them. I just want to do the same for these kids,” he said as his voice choked up.

The team is from the community of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona.

Just a few years ago, that community was under the strict rule of Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints leader Warren Jeffs.

Things are now changing as Water Canyon High School recently played its first football game, creating a sense of excitement and inclusion in town.

Bennett, who works at a medical clinic there, has noticed the change but also says he was worried some of the older children might be forgotten.

“I saw kids coming in all the time, and I’m like, ‘What do you do for fun?’ They didn’t know. I asked them if they liked sports. They didn’t know,” Bennett said.

Richard Bennett, parent who restarted the high school mountain bike team.

Since he knew a little bit about mountain bikes and racing, he started the Creek Valley Condors team.

He figured it would give kids in the community something to do and build their confidence.

“Some of these kids have never felt successful at anything, but they’re smart and intelligent, and they want to have fun,” Bennett said.

When Bennett met Stubbs at that park, Stubbs wasn’t going to school.

Attending classes is a requirement of the Utah High School Cycling League, so Bennett helped Stubbs sign up.

“I think education is important,” Stubbs said. “I haven’t been to classes since eighth grade. My parents pulled me out and home-schooled me in ninth grade. I haven’t been back since.”

Racing on the team, and having teammates, have done wonders for him.

“It helps me mentally,” Stubbs said. “I have friends on this team, and if I’m stressing out about something, we can go for a ride, and it helps me out.”

The team has been good for everyone on it.

Not only does it show them there’s more out there, but it also helps them to dream bigger.

“We were practicing, and we got to the top of a hill, and I asked them what they liked about mountain biking,” Bennett said. “One of the kids said going fast, and another kid said going downhill, and another kid said jumping. And I had one kid stop and said, ‘when I’m out there, it’s just me and my bike.'”

The league helped pay for some of the costs for the team with scholarships for entry fees and mountain bikes.

“They have been wonderful. They welcome us with open arms, and they were excited to have us compete,” Bennett said.

Eventually, all those trails could lead to something bigger.

“It doesn’t matter what their story has been,” Bennett said. “It’s what their story is going forward.”

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Hildale high school bike team participates in regional race