Leigh Mazion

Competitive mountain biking does not usually garner a lot of media attention, but when it does, it is often portrayed as an extreme sport favored by "lone wolf" adrenaline junkies. Living Streets Champion Leigh Mazion will be the first to tell you that, in point of fact, mountain biking is actually primarily an endurance sport - and in his experience, one where participants value collegiality and community above competition.

Mazion serves as director for the Edina Mountain Biking Team, one of Edina's newest official school sports. Established in 2013, the team's current 52-member roster is somewhat unique. The extracurricular is co-ed, and racers hail not just from Edina High School, but area middle schools as well.
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Athletes train together and compete in so-called Middle School, Freshman, Sophomore, JV and Varsity categories. "In 2014, the Minnesota High School Cycling League became the first in the country to add a division for seventh - and eighth-graders," Mazion explained. It proved a smart move for the fledgling league. "I think the resulting race format is one of the most appealing attributes of our sport."

Edina's team, and their counterparts across Minnesota, participate in five big races each fall - culminating in a state championship near the end of the season. Scoring is tabulated and awards given for each race and for the season as a whole. Individual performance is recognized, but so is team achievement. In other words, "team scoring factors in boys and girls, from all racing categories. Every racer has an opportunity to help their team by scoring points."

"This makes for a very exciting event, with racers actively cheering their teammates in races throughout the day," Mazion added.

In the parlance of high school sports, mountain biking is an "independent provider" extracurricular: the team is self-funded and staffed by volunteers. Many, though not all, are parents. Mazion himself has two daughters on the team. "I enjoy being involved in a school sport in which I, as a parent, can help train and provide a positive environment for the kids," he said.

As an independent provider sport, the Edina Mountain Biking Team is qualified to offer participants letters of performance and participation. Letters are challenging to earn. In addition to the usual criteria, athletes must complete a cycling-related community service requirement. Fortunately, opportunities to fulfill this last condition are myriad. Last year, bikers staffed a cycling advocacy booth at the Minnesota State Fair, assisted several biking nonprofits, and took part in trail maintenance efforts.

Maintaining and expanding our biking infrastructure is a cause they champion with particular vigor. Contrary to the stereotype of elite bikers "tearing up the trails," Mazion notes that "mountain bikers are more conscious than most of dirt trail erosion, and work hard to keep the trails in great shape for users."

Paved roadways are no less important. Transporting the team for a practice at Theodore Wirth Regional Park in Minneapolis or a comparable trail network is a logistical challenge. For interval training, they often turn instead to hilly areas closer to home that do not see high volumes of vehicular traffic.

As the City's ongoing Living Streets initiative pushes to make Edina a model for multi-modal transportation, Mazion is hopeful that our area can begin to assume a reputation on par with "biking destination" communities in northern Minnesota, such as Duluth and Crosby. Someday down the road, his team might even be able to host a Minnesota High School Cycling League race right here in Edina.