BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Kristine Contento-Angell, a Bloomfield resident and state champion in mountain biking, has helped organize a mountain biking team for local children. The team is called ESSEX Offroad and it is in the NJ Interscholastic Cycling League, which is part of National Interscholastic Cycling.
The bikers are sixth- to 12-graders. Contento-Angell said since the league is new to NJ, team members come from a geographic area. For ESSEX Offroad, riders come from Essex County but two are Bloomfield students. One is Kai Contento, a sixth-grader who attends Watsessing Elementary and is Contento-Angell’s son. The other is Melanie Rojas, an eighth-grader at Bloomfield Middle School. The team has 27 registered students and three are girls.
“The NICA currently has over 10,000 student athletes nationwide,” Contento-Angell said in an email. “It is a proven program that has been running and growing since 2009. The focus is developing strong minds, strong character as well as strong bodies through interscholastic mountain bike teams. There are five races scheduled for the spring.”
She said no one is cut from a team and no one is benched — everyone gets to participate in every activity but racing is not mandatory. A school team can be formed when a school district has five or more students participating.
Practice is two or three times a week, Contento-Angell said. This is done at local parks with cones establishing a course. Actual mountain-biking practice is at state parks. These are outside Essex County.
“A large focus of the program is to welcome students who have very little or no experience riding mountain bikes,” Contento-Angell said. “Many of the early practices focus on basic bike handling skills. The NICA program has a comprehensive training program for coaches, including risk management, concussion training, background checks, CPR, positive coaching philosophy, bike skills training and more.”
Andrea Cederberg, the director of ESSEX Offroad and the owner of Pedal Montclair, said in an email that when a student or parent notifies the team that they would like to join, they are invited to register.
“Once registration is completed, we add them to our email list that informs students and parents of practices, fundraising events, and keeping them current.”
She said students need to have “functioning and safe mountain bikes and helmets.”
“We are very fortunate that one of NJ league sponsors, Kent Bikes, offers loaner bikes to students who need them,” she said.