At the end of their 10-mile bike ride, they were laughing and smiling.
Their legs weren't too tired. They weren't gasping for breath. They looked like they could keep going.
That's a good thing, because this weekend they will keep going — possibly doubling that distance.
The kids in Stevens Middle School's cycling program are taking part in Saturday's Inland Empire Century. The popular ride has 100-, 75-, 50- and 25-mile options; the Pasco youth are planning to ride 25 miles.
It'll be the culmination of hours upon hours of work with adult mentors through the after-school program, which made its debut last fall and could spread to other Pasco schools and Tri-City school districts.
The kids say they love it.
Luis Fierro, a seventh-grader, said he craves the fresh air and the chance to work out his legs and lungs.
The program not only gets kids out on bikes, it makes sure they're safe while they're pedaling along.
They learn proper pre-ride bike checks, plus hand signals and other rules of the road.
Mike Watkins, a certified cycling instructor, was inspired to start the program after encountering young cyclists on the annual Seattle to Portland bike ride.
The program's cycling curriculum is approved by the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
An $11,000 donation from Columbia Center Rotary paid for the bikes used by the Stevens cyclists.
Other Tri-City groups also pitched in, with Tri-Cities Sunrise Rotary helping out with bike tools and Whitney Allstate Insurance Group helping with helmets.
Gold's Gym and the Fun, Fit and Over Fifty Club helped train the adult volunteers.
The bikes, helmets and other gear is kept on-site at Stevens, then brought out for the club's weekly sessions.
The crew started out with classroom instruction, then moved to a closed-course and finally streets and trails.
During a training ride on a recent afternoon, excitement for the Inland Empire event was building.
Arthur Broady, an organizer, stopped by. He said the club's participation is "about the coolest thing that could be."
"We're growing kids into the world of cycling," he said. "They're going to be the 16-, 17-, 18-year-olds doing the 100 miles one day."
Watkins said cycling teaches valuable skills and is enriching for kids.
"It's a little bit more cooperative versus competitive. It's a lifelong exercise. It's something they can integrate into their lifestyle later. It's something they can do with their families," he said.
He said he wants to bring the program to other local schools and school districts.
The curriculum also is approved to be used in P.E. classes, he noted.
About nine kids from the Stevens club are set to take part in the Inland Empire race, along with Watkins and other adult mentors — plus Pasco Superintendent Michelle Whitney.
On a break during a recent ride, several of the kids said they're not nervous. They know they can do it.
And they had a quick answer when asked what other kids should do if a club opens at their school:
"Join," several of the young cyclists said.
To help with the Stevens cycling club or inquire about starting a new chapter, email email@example.com.