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Cottonwood Heights Journal

CottonCrest mountain biking ‘family’ completes successful season

Jan 31, 2023 02:48PM ● By Julia Slama

Nineteen CottonCrest mountain bikers competed at state in coach Anthony Stowe’s last season. (Photo courtesy of CottonCrest mountain biking team)

Nineteen student-athletes competed at state for the composite CottonCrest mountain biking team, with top places going to Hillcrest’s Josie Paul, who finished second in senior open girls’ race, and Hillcrest’s Alex Fisher, who grabbed fourth place in the freshmen B boys’ contest.

“We had a great season,” coach Anthony Stowe said. “We had more podium finishes this year than we’ve had in a very long time.”

While not every biker who attends Cottonwood High, Hillcrest High, Academy of Math, Engineering and Science (AMES) and Intermountain Christian placed in the top 10 for CottonCrest, Stowe was pleased with his student-athletes’ successes, which came in different forms.

For Hillcrest senior Matt Sebahar, it was about competing.

“Matt has been a part of our team recreationally for years. He decided to race and competed in senior open boys’ race at state, so that’s a great success,” Stowe said.

He also was proud for Hillcrest’s Alice Stephens who he said had a “stellar” season and capped it off with a 65th-place finish at state for freshmen girls.

Hillcrest seniors Kolby Butler and Braxton Little and Intermountain Christian junior Micah Autry all competed at the varsity level. 

Hillcrest senior Kenna Stowe, coach Stowe’s daughter, was the lone female rider for the team who raced varsity.

“I’m pretty bummed with how it went because at the very beginning, there’s a really big pile up and I was stuck in the very back underneath everybody. I was the last to get up and get out of the gate,” she said about her overall 78th finish. “One of the girls just slammed on her brakes and caused everybody to just pile up.”

It also was a day with wind gusts up to 40 miles per hour, which the coach said were “horrible” and “memorable.”

“The wind picked up right at the start of my race and just continued to get worse,” Kenna Stowe said. “During my second lap, the gusts at the top on the plateau were literally pushing me off of the trail. It was deadly.” 

She had placed in the top 15 in every race prior to state.

“I thought my season went pretty well. I reached my goal of racing varsity. My fitness wasn’t exactly where I wanted it to be because I got sick three times over the summer, so I didn’t have that much time to train,” she said, adding that she wanted to meet the challenge of racing varsity, which competes an extra lap on the courses. “It was still really fun and still really difficult.”

Kenna Stowe began mountain biking after her older brother Kaden started into the sport. Their dad started as CottonCrest’s assistant coach and moved into the head role seven years ago as his children competed.

“My dad said, ‘We’re going to try something besides dancing to see if you like it. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to do it after this year,’” she remembered about her seventh-grade year. “But, at the end of the year, I really liked it, and we bought me a bike.” 

The former Hillcrest Dance Company member now has switched gears.

“Biking just took over and takes up so much time, I’m not dancing anymore,” she said.

Throughout her years of biking, she has been coached by her dad.

“What’s been kind of cool to spend more time with him and he also talks with me a lot after my ride and helps me figure out how to get better. But it can be frustrating because he’s hard on me,” Kenna Stowe said. “Sometimes I’m focused and I’m pushing it really hard, and he will just make random comments about the day. So, I’ll be riding up the canyon as hard as I can, and he’ll be like, ‘just look at the nature.’”

Her dad explained that he was “trying to divert her attention because she hyperfocuses on the workout.”

Kenna Stowe then said, “I was looking down at my bike, wishing for it to be over. I like what I get from (the hard workouts), but I just don’t like doing them. I like that I get a lot of power from them and that helps me in my races.”

Stowe said often workouts are designed to help riders in their races, but through it all, he’s appreciated coaching his kids.

“One of the most wonderful things about coaching my daughter is I’ve been able to watch her growth and be so close to it,” he said. “It’s become a family thing for us. We’ve been able to spend a great amount of time together and it’s just been super unifying experience. It’s also created a unique relationship with my daughter and I feel very fortunate that I’ve been able to spend this time with her in high school.”

Even though her senior high school season is over, her biking career isn’t.

She plans to continue competing. This May, her family plans to take part in the 12-hour ride, 217-mile loop as a relay team around Mesa Verde National Park. She also plans to ride in the six-hour endurance race in the Hurricane, Utah rim area.

Kenna Stowe isn’t the only one who is parting from the CottonCrest team. Her dad, who placed third in the state coaches race, has stepped aside to let others lead the team.

“We have great people that will be running the team,” he said, adding that there are nine seniors graduating or about one-quarter of the team. “It has been a great experience to watch these students go from freshman to seniors and be someone that can provide them with a safe place to learn valuable life lessons. My No. 1 rule is no cliques so it’s fun to watch these kids come together through one common sport. Coaching our team is one of the most impactful things I’ve ever done in my life. Watching a new high school kid become an athlete and their parents who have never mountain biked before, are supporting practices and then, they’re racing, and it creates a new communication line for a parent and a child. It’s been everything for me and my family, and it’s just been so impactful to watch.”

The support and camaraderie of the sport became apparent from his son’s first race in Vernal.

“I was so used to every other sport where parents from opposing teams are typically yelling about a foul or ‘your kid did this.’ When my son finished the course, and it was obvious he had crashed as he was covered in dirt, I was walking toward him and this other parent from another team starts talking to him. Initially, I’m thinking, ‘Oh, no, here we go again.’ But that person said, ‘Dude, you had such a cool race. Did you wipe out?’ He was just totally rooting him on, and my son’s face changed. You could see the sun in his eyes. He brightened up and told him the story of his race. From that time on, I wanted to try and infuse this family feeling into the team. I’ve wanted to make sure that it was inclusive for every kid because mountain biking is a great place for anyone to come and learn about themselves. I’ll miss the friendships and closeness of the sport.”

His daughter agrees.

“I’ve had a lot of support in my races, the girls, their parents, the boys; it’s been super awesome,” she said. “I’m friends with a bunch of kids from different schools. They’ll come up and talk to me after my race and ask, ‘How did it go?’ I’ve made a bunch of good friendships.”