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Warnell student helps relaunch UGA mountain bike team

It’s been a busy fall semester for Margaret Griggs.

Arriving on campus as a transfer student, Griggs first needed to learn the ins and outs of being a University of Georgia student. But at the same time, she needed to focus on a new project: Restarting UGA’s mountain biking team.

The team, a campus club that broke apart after COVID paused competitions, hadn’t practiced or attended events for three years. That meant former officers of the club sport had graduated and few students on campus even knew it existed. But as an avid mountain biker who already had years of experience competing on a national level, Griggs was certain of two things during her first weeks on campus: She wanted to study forestry at UGA, and she wanted to get the team back together.

“Yeah, it’s been a little crazy getting here and starting out because our season started almost immediately—it was the first weekend of September. We had the middle of August to the first weekend of September to get everything together,” she said. “It was a lot in a very short period of time.”

Griggs is a preprofessional student at the UGA Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. She came to UGA after a year at Truett McConnell University in North Georgia, which recruited her to ride for its mountain biking team. As a student, she received a scholarship for competing in the varsity-level sport. 

She started out studying nursing but quickly realized it wasn’t the right fit. Switching her major to biology, she began to think about options for potential majors and potential careers. During a break between semesters, she spent time with her uncle who is a forester.

The pieces started to come together.

“I worked with a forester over winter break last year and just saw what that was about and really loved it,” she said. “I immediately started the transfer process to UGA for forestry.”

But her college experience also needed to include mountain biking. Griggs began racing bikes when she was 8. Her father is also a mountain bike racer; it’s a bit of a required family pastime.

At first, she said, “I didn’t love it. I was a gymnast and I had been a gymnast since I was 4. I loved the bows and the leotards.”

She grumbled through the family rides until, one day, something clicked.

“I fell in love with it in middle school, and I started really racing,” she said. “I got picked up by a development team when I was 14 and started racing all around the country.”

When she was 16, she was recruited by a semi-pro team and has been racing with them ever since. When she arrived at UGA this fall, she had experience riding on a semi-pro circuit as well as at the collegiate levels. The semi-pro races happen throughout the year while the collegiate competitions take place in the fall.

So, for the past few weeks, Griggs and her teammates have met up on Wednesdays for practice. On other days each works out on their own and each weekend they pack up and head to a race. There are about two dozen team members; about 10 to 12 regularly race. 

It’s been a great way to get to know people on a new campus, she added. “I’m definitely already very close with the team. I mean, we spend every weekend together.”

At Truett McConnell, mountain biking is a varsity sport; at UGA it’s a club, similar to ice hockey or lacrosse. Griggs said she would love to find additional funding sources to help with transportation and logistics—they do have some sponsors, but still need to stretch to cover food and lodging. 

But even with the quick start, the team is making an impact. Griggs and two others have qualified for the collegiate national championships in individual races, and the team also has a qualifying relay team. This spring, she expects to plan more team practices and provide more opportunities for students to join.

Students interested in learning more can find the UGA mountain biking team on Instagram (@UGAcycling) and on the UGA Involvement Network.

Also this spring, Griggs plans to enter Warnell’s professional program. This will make her an official forestry major and opens up new levels of classes. When she’s not on her bike, these courses are another way she can spend time in the woods.

“I wanted to graduate with a degree where I knew what I was going to do,” she said. “So, yeah, this definitely stemmed from loving being outside and wanting to work in the outdoors. And I also just love trees—so forestry is a passion.”


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