Trailblazing to Triumph

Students reflect on their experiences as part of MN’s NICA Team

Deeksha Shridher, Staff Writer

As he looks through recap videos detailing the winning moments from races past, senior Will Ramsey can’t help but smile. He feels a gratifying sense of fulfillment as he captures the community involved in each biking race for the Nebraska Interscholastic Cycling Association, otherwise known as NICA.

Ramsey, whose family is involved with NICA, does photo and video coverage for the entire Nebraska league. His tasks as a photographer and video editor began in 2019, the same year that NICA was formed in Nebraska.

“I do photo and video coverage for the entire NICA Nebraska League,” Ramsey said. “I got involved because my mom is a league director, and my dad is a team coach.”

NICA was created when an unrelated mountain biking program known as Nebraska Interscholastic Cycling Series (NICS) was established by two Millard West teachers. Eventually, the program transitioned into a NICA chapter that currently consists of ten different teams in Nebraska. However, concerns over the pandemic temporarily halted competition plans.

In 2019, we started the transition to an NICA chapter. Since we already had NICS, our NICA formation was much faster than other leagues in the past,” Ramsey said. “2020 was supposed to be the first season of full production races, but COVID-19 dampered that production.”

In 2021, Millard North students who were members of NICA were finally able to begin participating in competitions. NICS competitors from Millard North and Millard West combined to form the Millard North NICA Composite Team.

“Mountain biking at Millard North started with NICS, and the Millard North NICS team transitioned into the Millard Compost NICA Team,” Ramsey said. “Millard Composite began attending official races during the 2021 season, the first season official races were put on.”

Although Ramsey himself is an avid cyclist, his other sports commitments have prevented him from being able to compete in NICA. However, his experience covering other biking events has allowed him to create recap videos for individual NICA races. 

“I didn’t want to compete because I wanted to focus on my cross country career because that overlaps,” Ramsey said. “I’ve done photos and videos for previous organizations, and I felt I could bring my skills to this organization and help out madly.”

Although Ramsey is unable to participate in NICA as a cyclist, two students at MN are able to compete as a part of Millard’s Composite Team. Junior Riley Hrlevich and sophomore Parker Case have joined NICA during their freshman year.

Hrlevich, who first learned about NICA through reading announcements posted on the school walls, enjoys the close bond that comes with being a part of the team. He finds value in knowing that NICA is inclusive of all, regardless of biking skills.

“I really enjoy riding with the people on the team and a lot of them have become really close friends. The support from those friends is unreal,” Hrlevich said. “Riding with them, seeing them progress, and being able to have fun 100% of the time is awesome.”

Case, who became interested in cycling through riding different trails in preparation for races, finds his NICA experience as supportive and encouraging. Having learned about NICA in 4th grade, he began putting effort into cycling and cherishing the rewards it reaps.

I really enjoy the races, and all of the friends and family around support the racers,” Case said. “The support from my teammates has really encouraged me to keep pushing through the season.”

Overall, as NICA makes its way through its first season, the sense of bonding as a community is what competitors feel defines it best. While competition may be a critical aspect of the activity, the support and fun it involves draws its members closer together with every race.