NICA’s annual calendar reveals a broad array of close to 70 events and programs including races, Leader Summits, CycleFests, and camps spreading across eight states. NICA representatives will attend outreach and advocacy events (such as Interbike, Frostbike, National Bike Summit, IMBA, and Sea Otter Classic), teach educational webinars, and create groundbreaking instructional and risk management materials. The National Staff support all of these events and programs at various levels, as they are the core of what we do at NICA.
However, there is only one event on the calendar that happens once a year, and that is the annual NICA Awards Banquet.
The 2012 NICA Awards, which was held January 12th, brings together every face of the high school mountain bike movement–sponsors, coaches, parents, student athletes, national/league staff, press, and friends–for a gala celebration to honor the recipients. It’s an experience like none other on the NICA calendar, and a precious opportunity to showcase the high-school mountain bike movement’s remarkable capacity to change lives.
“By now, I am not surprised that newcomers to this event report that they are inspired by what they see and hear. What surprises me, is that I continue to be brought to tears by these stories,” said Austin McInerny, NICA’s Executive Director. “I have been involved with high-school cycling for over a decade now, but the stories of lives changed, feats accomplished, odds overcome… I still get goosebumps even after all these years.”
The day began with a benefit ride early Saturday. “Eighty riders representing the whole spectrum of the NICA community enjoyed each other’s company on pure-fun singletrack,” says Chris Spencer, NICA’s Program Manager. In attendance were student athletes, alumni, parent volunteers, coaches, race staff, NICA staff, league directors, board members, donors, and sponsor representatives from Trek, Specialized, Jeep, SRAM, QBP, Clif Bar, GU Sports, and Ft. Lewis College. All gathered for an 18-mile mixed-level mountain bike ride on the trails of Fort Ord in Monterey, California. Our honored guest, Specialized pro rider Lea Davidson – a U.S. Olympic team member and 6-time national champion, was a key participant in the event.
After the ride, bikes and riders were cleaned, packed-up and transported 40 miles up the road to Morgan Hill for the 5 p.m. awards ceremony, which ended with an interview with Lea Davidson covering mountain-biking subjects from her Olympic experience to Little Bellas, a non-profit organization she has established which is already feeding riders into the NICA system.
NICA Awards Banquet
The Banquet was held at Specialized Headquarters in Morgan Hill, where 150 guests were ushered by volunteer student athletes, parents and coaches through an elegant rolling dinner, viewing the Specialized museum, concept stores, warehouse, and theatre. Drinks were provided by provided by The Clif Family Winery and Farm and New Belgium Brewing.
For many present, this event provided the first real insight to what NICA actually does, as told by the impactful stories of the awards recipients in the Specialized theatre. The stories of volunteerism, coaching, courage, risk, and more moved the audience both to tears and to their feet in applause. The award winners and their personal stories are here. Please take a moment to read about these well deserving individuals.
After a ride, dinner, the presentation, and the interview with an Olympian, there was still more. The day concluded on a note of inclusiveness and equality, as the NICA Booster Fund took the floor to raise additional revenues to help disadvantaged families participate in NICA leagues around the USA. The whole awards event, including the morning’s bike ride, raised nearly $30,000 for the Booster Fund, which will provide the means to participate in NICA activities to student-athletes and coaches who would otherwise be unable to do so.
Specialized Global Advocacy Manager, Simon Dunne, captured the effort, the event, and the energy of the awards recipients:
“Specialized believes deeply in the power of cycling. It’s why we make our investments in cycling and youth. The bike can change the lives of youth in so many ways – help them concentrate in school, help them relieve stresses and angst, help them manage their weight and fitness, connect them to a social circle, and create lifelong good habits.”
Congratulations to the NICA Award recipients, and a thank you to all involved in the high school movement. We look forward to seeing you all next year for another great celebration!