Shared interests in cycling, fishing and exercise keep two school-connected men moving in the name of good health.
Pratt County Veteran’s Memorial Lake is a favorite stopping point for two local cyclists. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see them off their bikes, peering into the water. But not to worry, they aren’t up to anything dangerous, it’s just Prattans Clinton Skaggs and Steve Blankenship out having a good time and getting some exercise.
This local veterinarian and high school principal have found common ground through a shared love of cycling and fishing.
The two first met when Skaggs began serving on the USD 382 School Board in 2007. Blankenship was principal then, as he is now, of Pratt High School. The two soon began cycling and fishing together and still enjoy doing so, although Skaggs no longer serves on the school board. The two have been cycling companions for the past 10 or so years.
Clinton Skaggs began riding around 1990, after he finished veterinary school at K-State and moved to Pratt. After ACL replacement surgery in 1984 his doctor told him that he could either cycle or swim.
“That’s the biggest thing that got me started. I wasn’t much of a swimmer,” he said.
Skaggs bought his first bike, a hybrid, from Bicycle Pedaler after hearing an ad on the radio for the Wichita bike shop.
“And it’s been all downhill from there,” he said.
The veterinarian has several reasons why he keeps riding, some 28 years later.
““I keep riding because I feel like it helps my knees,” he said. “I do it for my health, for my heart. I enjoy it. I feel like it’s a fun form of exercise.”
Skaggs has ridden in various organized rides across the state over the years, with his earliest being the Gyp Hills Experience out of Medicine Lodge in the early 90s.
“The recent Open Range Gravel Race, leaving out of Pratt was one of the funnest rides I’ve ever done,” he said. “The gravel alone was a challenge … and a work out.”
He counts the single-day Tornado Alley ride as his longest.
“It was 110 miles. You started at Joplin and then rode to Arkansas, Oklahoma, and the corner Kansas,” he said.
Skaggs typically begins riding each year around the onset of daylight savings time and continues into September until his work schedule starts getting busy. He said his riding is sporadic and depends upon how busy he is with work and other commitments.
Pratt High School Principal Steve Blankenship said that he has been riding his whole life.
“I probably got really heavy into riding 22 or 23 years ago when I lived in California,” he said.
Back then, he bought a mountain bike with a full-suspension to cut down on flat tires he was having due to of- road riding.
“I did crash one time going down a mountain—actually on my first ride on that full-suspension bike,” he said. “The mountain was just outside my backdoor. There was a dip at the bottom of a hill that sent me sailing. lt was a good thing I had my helmet on because it split the helmet in two.”
That accident resulted in some serious road rash and a trip to the local emergency room.
Like the veterinarian, the high school principal rides for health reasons.
“I just try to go out and ride recreationally and stay healthy. Now that I’m over 50 I don’t want to have a knee replacement,” Blankenship said. “I used to play a lot of basketball but that made my knees hurt, my back hurt.”
He said that cycling impacts the knees much less than playing basketball does.
Blankenship, who has probably given advice to more than a few students over the years, offers this guidance to those thinking about taking up the sport of cycling.
“Make sure you wear the right equipment and have a bike that fits you right,” he said. “Do the riding you want to do. Do whatever’s fun for you. If it’s no fun for you, you’re going to quit.”
It’s very evident, should one encounter the pair on the county lake road or anywhere near, that they’re enjoying the miles they pedal together.