Jesuit Cyclists Keep Upstart Program Rolling

Michael Hamer adjusts the gears on his bicycle prior to a recent practice session with his Jesuit teammates. (Photo: Chris McGathey)
Michael Hamer adjusts the gears on his bicycle prior to a recent practice session with his Jesuit teammates. (Photo: Chris McGathey)
Andrew Armstrong sees the cycling program at Jesuit as a method of allowing students to compete, but also promoting a lifelong sport.

That dual purpose was part of what prompted Armstrong to launch the program almost a decade ago. And it’s continued to grow since, both in participation and in competitive success.

Last spring, the Rangers won the Texas High School Cycling League State Road Championships. That’s a far cry from 2005, when the program began with just a handful of interested students who gathered informally after school.

“With each year, it got more and more structured, and looked more like a legitimate team,” said Armstrong, who is the current director of the THSCL and teaches theology classes at Jesuit.

There are about 22 riders now, making Jesuit one of the largest high school programs in Texas. That’s up from 12 just two years ago, when the cycling team became a full-fledged varsity program under the auspices of the school’s athletic department.

The team competes in road cycling events, with part of the roster participating as part of a mountain-bike team as well. They train four times each week throughout the school year, riding up to 80 miles around Preston Hollow neighborhoods.

Armstrong was an avid cyclist as a child, but concentrated on football and baseball as a Jesuit student. He didn’t start racing until he attended Boston College, and has stuck with it since.

Armstrong said cycling offers students an alternative to other sports or extracurricular activities that encourages exercise and camaraderie.

“Guys will do other sports, and when their season is done, they want to try something else,” Armstrong said. “It’s something different, so it sets them apart.”

Most of the cyclists own their bikes, but the team has some for newcomers to try. Some have riding experience when they join, but few have ever raced before.

“I like high-intensity sports,” said Jesuit junior Jake Wilson, who has been on the team for two years. “I had always ridden with my dad. It just seemed like a good extension of a hobby.”

Jesuit competes in mountain-bike races during selected weekends in the fall, and in a series of road-race events each spring. Not many schools have organized cycling teams, although St. Mark’s, Bishop Lynch, and Sachse each have small squads.

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