Jackson County mountain bikers

Pictured (from L to R): Bryan Murphy, coach Randy Murphy, Caleb Bowers, coach Greg Bowers and Anna Holley. Bowers finished third at the Peach State Championships boys' race, and Holley finished 7th in the girls' race.

MILLEDGEVILLE – The Jackson County mountain bike team concluded its season in Milledgeville at the Peach State Championships last weekend (Nov. 12-13) capping off a breakout year.

The team finished fourth at the State Championship with 1,866 points. Louie Hitt and Caleb Bowers claimed 2nd and 3rd respectively in their categories. In the women’s race, Anna Holley finished 7th at the state championships, with Aedan Tilson earning a blistering 8th place in the JV2 Category. In the middle school race, Turner McDowell finished 8th in the seventh grade boys race.

“My strategy was to sit on the leader's wheel and let him drive the pace during the race and see if I could make a move on him at the end," said freshman Caleb Bowers. "But it just didn't work out that way. I'm happy with my result though.”

Head coach Zach Taylor said “We wanted to come out and push the envelope one more time.”

“I told our athletes a week before the race that we needed to go out on a strong note to continue the momentum into next year.”

The team was 122 points behind third in the overall standings, and despite having a strong showing at the State Championships, they were unable to overcome the difference and earned 4th place. Coach Randy Murphy remarked how far the program has grown since last year.

“To finish 9th last year in the state and now end our season in the top five, thats amazing and nothing to shake your head at," Murphy said. "We are in the upper categories of the more elite teams in the league and without riders in higher categories. It just goes to show you how much heart our kids have.”

Individually, the team had three athletes place on the state podium. Louie Hitt finished 2nd in the state, Caleb Bowers finished 3rd, and Nate Hitt finished 4th. Additionally, several athletes earned individual awards as well. Taylor praised Hitt for his progress in the sport.

“I’ve watched Nate as an 8th grader progress so much in 4 years its amazing to see all that hard work pay off.” he said. “He's a humble kid about his achievements, but he's always looking for an edge to get better.”

Bryan Murphy won the “Golden Pick” award for accumulating the most trail maintenance hours this season. The team also won a team award as well that comes with a donation to their local trails.

“Our kids love working on the trails at the school and in the area," Taylor said. "We’ve developed a great partnership with the school system and we are very grateful for a place for our kids to practice and a facility that the JCHS cross country team can use too.

Katelyn Howard won the Student-Athlete of the Year Award for the state. Taylor quipped “She is an amazing young lady who works so hard both on and off the trail.”

The Georgia Cycling Association Coach of the Year Award went to Coach Zach Taylor. Murphy shared his thoughts on the job Taylor did as coach this season.

“You won't meet another coach who is more dedicated to all these kids and works to help improve them all," he said. “He treats these kids like they are part of his family and he goes above and beyond to support athletes not just on his team, but all athletes in the league.”

The 2022 Season will start back again in March of 2022. If you are interested in joining the team, reach out to Zach Taylor at ZTaylor@JCSS.us

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