Aaron Lock had never intended to race bikes when he bought his first ride at Bike-n-Hike nearly four years ago.

The newly hired principal at Ashmore Elementary had just wanted to hit the trails.

“I’m never going to race,” he said when selecting his bike.

Much has changed over the past three-plus years.

Last year, for example, he was an age-group champion in an Illinois cycling series and now, Lock says, he’s racing nearly every other weekend.

Lock, currently the principal at Carl Sandburg Elementary, sees a lot of value in cycling. Not just in racing, but in often just enjoying a ride itself.

That’s why he agreed to take over as coach for the first youth cycling team in the area. It will also be the first state team in the National Interscholastic Cycling Association, which now holds league competition in 31 states as part of its Youth Mountain Biking Movement for students in sixth through twelfth grades.

The local riders will compete with the relatively new Indiana cycling league until teams emerge across Illinois. Races take place from late July through late October

“There’s definitely a need,” Lock said. “There’s not a whole lot of organized cycling for youth in this area.”

The races are built around four-mile loops, says Margaret Barawskas, league director of the Indiana Interscholastic Cycling League. Students go anywhere from one to four loops around the trails, depending on skill level and age.

The races will be held in areas that feature rolling hills and good trails, such as parks near Terre Haute, Indianapolis and southern Indiana. The 2020 schedule has not yet been finalized.

If the program catches on in Illinois, local riders will likely compete on trails in this region, such as Fay Pickering State Park near Marshall, as well as in its own series across the state.

“A lot of people don’t realize that within thirty to forty-five minutes,” Lock said, “we have very good trail systems that we didn’t have ten years ago.”

Lock, who will take over as principal at Charleston High next year, is hoping that youth find a lifelong passion beyond the school competition. Anyone in Coles County interested in competing or supporting this team can contact Lock at aaronlock24@yahoo.com.