A chain gang you’d actually want to be in

  • The Contoocook Chain gang is a new mountain biking team open to ConVal-area middle- and high-schoolers. COURTESY PHOTO

  • Courtesy photo—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 2/22/2017 11:20:54 PM

ConVal-area middle- and high-schoolers have a brand new team to join this spring – the Contoocook Chain Gang.

The Chain Gang is a first-year mountain biking team competing in the New England High School Cycling Association, a growing league that currently has teams from Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire, with more joining every year.

Like NEHSCA, the Chain Gang is also looking to expand.

“We’re hoping to drum up a few more kids,” said coach Judy Surdam, who started the ball rolling last year with the Hillsboro Hawks team before taking the ConVal-area kids from that Amherst-based team and starting the Chain Gang. Surdam said that the team – which is an independent club and not part of ConVal’s athletic program – can be a good outlet for kids who haven’t specialized in other sports enough to make a high school varsity program.

“That’s the fun thing about it,” Surdam said. “There’s all those conventional sports. But if you didn’t start young playing soccer or baseball or football, you might not have a spot on one of those teams. It gets some of those kids that might not get into some of those high school sports and it gives them to know and to love.”

Surdam said the ConVal area is the perfect place for a mountain biking team.

“We have some of the best mountain biking trails around,” she said. And she’d know – after all, she’s an avid cyclist and one of the organizers of the Hampshire 100, the state’s premier endurance bike race held annually in Greenfield.

And, she said, the coaching staff is experienced and talented.

“These kids are in good hands and they’re going to learn skills that will last a lifetime,” she said.

Two of those kids are Molly and Ella Dishong, South Meadow School students who raced for the Hawks last year and will be on the Chain Gang this spring.

“I would tell you that it’s a really fun experience because you get to meet new people from the other schools,” Molly said.

Her sister agreed. “I would say it’s fun, even though you might not do many sports but it’s fun to get out and try something,” said Ella.

The Dishongs are competitive bikers, racing all around New England in the summer since far before joining up with Surdam and NEHSCA. But what their mother Melissa saw during last season’s races was two talented young girls embracing their teammates of all ability levels.

“It was fun to watch them be proud of the kids who are new to the sport,” she said. “Someone who has hardly ridden a bike before might be out there and the girls are out there at the finish line screaming and waiting to give them a hug.”

Registration for the Chain Gang is open now. Those who sign up before Feb. 28 are eligible for discount purchases of bikes and team equipment.

Surdam also said there is financial aid available for those who require it.

“There’s nothing that should be stopping them if they want to ride a bike,” she said.

For more information, visit nehsca.com or find the Contoocook Chain Gang on Facebook.

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