As a mountain biker, Chestatee’s Jonah Soper has never been opposed to a bumpy road. But Soper’s first high school mountain bike race at the varsity level last Sunday couldn’t have gone much smoother.
He finished third among all varsity racers at the Georgia Interscholastic Cycling League’s first race of the season at Road Atlanta in Braselton, leading the War Eagles to a first-place finish among 26 participating schools.
Soper said he was surprised by how well he finished individually considering it was a further distance than he had gotten used to last year racing JV as a sophomore. The team’s success was equally shocking.
“Everyone was just freaking out, going crazy,” he said. “We were all so happy. We didn’t expect it to happen.”
It was a scene that Chestatee coaches Michelle and Loren Funk envisioned when they first brought the sport to Chestatee.
Michelle Funk said the War Eagles team started out with a small group of dedicated athletes, but as they invited more and more friends, it expanded rapidly.
“They’re just good leaders,” Funk said. “I think they’re just willing to share their sport with new people.”
Soper himself has been among those recruiting new bikers since he first joined up with the War Eagles.
He started mountain biking in the eighth grade when a neighbor invited he, his dad and his brother out for a ride. Soper enjoyed it, and his passion grew when he started riding at a competitive level.
“Just having a scheduled practice was a lot different,” he said. “Before I just went out and rode whenever I felt like it. But when I joined the team, we have scheduled practices, Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. So going to those was a big change, actively training to get better instead of just riding for fun.”
The training has apparently paid off for Soper, whose efforts last weekend helped to get Chestatee off to a hot start in the mountain biking season.
Soper hopes the success the team is having will bring more attention and athletes to the sport he has come to love.
“For people that don’t know about it, they just don’t know it exists and haven’t ever tried it before,” he said. “But for everyone that does it, it’s really fun and we all love it.”