DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR
MARBLE FALLS — With only two years of competitive mountain biking under his belt, Faith Academy student Alex DeFily is well on his way to making his mark on the Texas racing scene.
On May 4, he finished first in the Texas High School Mountain Bike League’s final race of the season with enough points to claim the 2014 sophomore champion jersey.
“I wasn’t sure how the season would go when I started, I just wanted to do the best I could,” DeFily said. And he did well, racking up first-place finishes in the four previous sophomore races in which he competed. In fact, DeFily managed a clean sweep, winning all five of the league’s races.
DeFily races as a member of the Highland Lakes Composite team, which includes riders from Burnet, Marble Falls and even Lago Vista. Burnet rider Jeffrey Stroh finished seventh in the freshman division, while teammate Colton Roach of Lago Vista finished eighth in the same division.
Those three riders made all five of this year’s races, but other Highland Lakes competitors included freshmen Kevin Michaels and Caleb Kirby along with sophomore Joey Barclay.
Alex’s father, Dave DeFily, the team manager and coach, said the team is growing just as the league is. He noticed more teams registering with each race. And the number of racers jumped from maybe 100 per race last year to about 170 in each event this year.
“This is the third year for the league, and we’ve seen the league grow by about 50 percent each year,” he said. “It’s pretty encouraging for the league and the kids.”
Alex, who spends a great deal of time riding Reveille Peak Ranch in Burnet (where two of this year’s races were held), might seem to have an advantage, but he isn’t ready to claim one. He pointed out he still took first in the other three races held on courses he doesn’t see until race day or during non-league races.
The key, Alex explained, is training.
“I train for mountain biking,” he said. Last summer, he attended a mountain-biking camp at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., where he worked alongside other high school mountain bikers and with experienced coaches. The camp gave him insights into what it would take to be successful on the mountain-biking stage.
He came back and began focusing on the sport’s technical skills, such as cornering, handling obstacles and climbing and descending hills.
Back in Burnet County, he makes sure he squeezes in regular rides on area trails, including at Reveille Peak Ranch. But it takes a great deal of balancing on his part because, along with mountain biking, he plays basketball for Faith Academy.
The state league has four divisions: freshman, sophomore, junior varsity and varsity. Most students compete in their age or class level with the exception of varsity.
“You have to earn a spot in the varsity class,” Dave DeFily said. “Even if you’re a senior, you may not ride in the varsity but in the junior varsity class.”
The varsity class is basically the elite of the high school riders, regardless of age or grade level.
But it’s a level Alex aspires to attain.
Alex also hopes to promote the league and the sport. Both father and son see the benefits of the sport as a competitive event and a lifelong pursuit. In fact, the DeFilys first got involved in mountain biking simply because the family would go out and enjoy rides together. Alex soon found he enjoyed the style of riding for its technical challenges as well as the sense of adventure it brings with it.
“You can go out and ride places you’ve never been,” he said.
People might see the sport as too expensive, especially after thumbing through a mountain-biking magazine, which has bikes costing $2,000-$5,000 on the pages. But Dave said it doesn’t have to be that way.
“You can really start with any mountain bike — even one you buy at Walmart,” he said. “Take it out and see if you like it. It’s just like any other sport. As you get better, you start looking at more expensive ones. But you don’t have to.”
He pointed out some high school competitors show up with cheaper bikes but still go out and have a good time.
In the end, that’s what it’s all about Dave said.
But Alex added that winning is definitely fun, too.
Go to www.texasmtb.org or email Dave DeFily at email@example.com for more information.
“If somebody’s interested, just come out and ride with us and find out if it’s for them,” the coach said.