The Springfield Youth Cycling Club (SYCC), part of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA), was launched in 2018 and has grown its ranks every year since. In 2021, a team of 55 club students competed in the State Championship Race and Overall League Championship at Binder Lake, just outside Jefferson City, along with 20 other teams from across the state. The event saw a total of 412 students compete, according to Missouri NICA League director Chris Mileski.
“You can tell he’s proud to be part of this team, win or lose,” says Mary Kromrey, General Manager of Ozark Greenways, of her first-year son’s participation in the SYCC. “It’s just a remarkable experience. And it still makes us camp!
Ozark Greenways is the official financial sponsor of SYCC. “[We] help with donations and when they need tents and that sort of thing,” Kromrey explains. “It’s because they’ve had such growth.” Kromrey says community interest in cycling was already on the rise before 2020, but events in the past two years have led to an additional spike in enthusiasm for the outdoors. “Most of the kids in our community went on spring break and didn’t come back until the next school year,” she says. “There were so many of our young people using our parks and trails at that time. I think even further added to this momentum.
Kromrey points to the benefits of a club like SYCC and its involvement with NICA that go beyond the immediate benefits of cycling. “It’s the sum of all the parts,” she says. “We have parents and families traveling with these young athletes [for races] like any other sports activity for young people. [They] camp, some of them stay in [our] hotels, they are looking for places to eat and lodge these big teams. So it definitely brings revenue and resources to our community.
In fact, 417-land will host at least one race in October this year, according to SYCC head coach Minor Baker. “We will definitely be having a race weekend at Two Rivers Bike Park in Highlandville,” Baker said. A former elementary school teacher who now teaches in Missouri State University’s Elementary Education Program, Baker has cycled most of his life. “I’m a regular cyclist both on the road and on local trails,” he says. Baker first joined the SYCC because his three sons were eligible to compete and enjoyed riding, and he soon rose to head coaching. “I’m a teacher and a cyclist, so combining those two is the perfect fit for me.”