Temecula, CA – The second race of SoCal Season 9 is in the books despite yet another spattering of heavy rain which spurred a bit of emergency tractor requisite trail work just days prior to the event. After two races it’s become apparent that weather is a recurring theme this season. While the rainstorms of the past month have consistently created a bit of extra work for SoCal Leaguers however those storms have also served to transform the landscape into a fantastic display of contrasting colors. In fact for the 819 High School and Middle School student-athletes that showed up to race at Vail Lake on Saturday and Sunday the venue was the greenest it’s ever been in league history.
The SoCal League uses many varying courses that highlight a variety of skills while getting progressively more challenging throughout the season. At Vail racers found themselves confronted by a new level of course technicality and this was reflected in the many podium changes we saw over race number one. This time around the course was hard packed, fast rolling, and full of roller coaster like sections that tested racers handling skills. In the infield the shuffling of racer positions created a new level of excitement and tension that could seen in the faces finish of each parent, coach, family member, and teammate that lined up at the finish to cheer as their racers rolled through lap after lap.
The day did end a bit soggy with a light sprinkle that quickly transformed into steady soaking drizzle but that only made everything that much more memorable. We would like to thank all those who stayed behind to help our volunteer staff break down and pack up in the rain. The SoCal League would not exist without it’s culture of volunteerism and it’s that spirit that continues to make everything else we’ll cover in this newsletter possible.
Getting ready to send off a wave – Photo by Tammy Sanchez
SoCal League teams compete in two divisions. Division One (D1) is for large school based or homeschool teams having 12 or more racers. Division Two (D2) contains school based teams, homeschool teams, and composite teams with 11 or fewer racers. School based and homeschool (D2) teams compete for separate trophies than composite teams.
On the Division One side Newbury Park High School stepped up their game and took first at Vail. Redlands Homeschool, who was 1st at race one, took 2nd and Great Oak High School narrowly beat out Yucaipa taking 3rd.
Head Coach Michael Legge of Newbury Park was ecstatic over the victory and said “our young women and men dug very deep to post these results. We were only ten points out last race, so I knew we were within striking distance. Yucaipa and Redlands are so talented, it is a nail biter all day long. We have to stay on the gas to stay in front. If we stumble, Yucaipa and Redlands will take over. It is a tough balance, we push hard but we don’t want to burn the athletes out, it’s a long season. Recover, recover, recover!!”
Michael Fuller, Head Coach for Redlands Homeschool, said “we had very consistent performances this time around. I was really pleased to see all of our riders score at least 400 points. Second place on the day was fantastic especially considering the caliber of the competition. Keyesville will be a very challenging course with its greater elevation gains and fun and technical descents and who knows, it might even be warm and dry. I like the fact that it is no team’s home course even to the point that no team has been there since 2015. The kid’s skill and strength will really be on display. Should be fun!”
Head Coach Rod Gisi was also very proud of his team saying “it was a great day for Great Oak High School MTB. We were able to capitalize in our backyard at Vail Lake. Led by our two Varsity riders finishing 1st and 2nd we were able to get on the podium. It was an amazing effort by all our riders and a great deal of thanks to all the coaches and an extremely supportive parent group. We are very much looking forward to Going back to Keysville. Go Wolfpack!”
There was some shuffling on the Division Two podium as well. The top two D2 teams from Beach to Boulders, Temescal Canyon High School and Woodcrest Christian Christian High School, switched places at Vail with Temescal Canyon taking 1st and Woodcrest taking 2nd. 3rd went to Valencia High School.
Coach Perry commented by saying “we had really hoped we could get a first place finish. Temescal Canyon came on strong and Valencia was right behind us, we just couldn’t pull it off. As usual I am sure it’s going to be a hard fought season. Anything could happen its Mountain Bike Racing “
Valencia’s Head Coach John Celentano was surprised however saying “I didn’t expect to see us on the podium as a team this week. We were missing two riders last race due to illness so I didn’t really know how things would turn out. I am obvious very happy with the results and super proud of our team.”
In the Composite standings Redlands Composite managed to snatch another 1st place trophy by the narrowest of margins over Corona Composite who took 2nd. South Orange County Composite stepped onto the podium for their first time this season in 3rd.
Coaches Zach Thorp and Woody Woodruff of Redlands Composite said that “having been able to be on the team podium at Perris we were optimistic for a good team race at Vail Lake but going into the race some or our riders who scored for us at Perris had some injuries. We talked to the team about everyone’s importance on the team and that everyone needed to ride to the best of their ability. As coaches we couldn’t have been more proud because each rider really stepped up and put in a full effort. Anything our team accomplishes is owed to the whole team as the mentality and support for a “best effort” really comes from each rider and coach and their encouragement and support of each other.
1. As for race 3, we are just going to keep trying to race to the best of our ability. No matter what happens we feel this is always something we can be proud of.
Varsity Boys take off – Photo by Cynthia Villars
If the first two races are any indication of whats to come in the Varsity Boys field then we are all in for some very exciting moments at our next race. In similar fashion to the first race the front of the Varsity Boys pack had an extremely close race. It was only in the final few seconds that it became apparent who the winner might be. Kahlo Chitararoff from Murrieta Mesa High School, the current Points Leader in the field, was the man to beat at Vail, and Trevor Mccutcheon from Great Oak High School was up to the challenge. Working with his teammate Cameron Joye who took 2nd Mccutcheon managed grasped 1st on the day in an incredible sprint finish over Joye and Chitraroff who took 3rd. 4th place went to Zack Villars from Victory Valley Composite and Tyler Weyman from Newbury Park High School was 5th.
Kahlo said “the race was filled with ups and downs! For me personally, I had two mishaps and had to chase the lead group to get up to the front. The first time I accidentally crashed into a girl on course after trying to pass her with the whole field of varsity guys. The second time my chain fell off. It was definitely a mental game of staying headstrong even though the conditions were against me. I really love this course because its my home course and I ride here every Saturday. Having the trails all dialed in before the season even started really gave me an edge on this course. I was planning on attacking into the 2nd to last single track, but I didn’t quite position myself correctly and the 1st and 2nd place guys took off while I was chasing them down and stuck behind the 3rd place guy. For this race especially where the single tracks are longer and people can make gains, it was crucial to be in the right position. Sometimes, that meant putting a minute long surge up to the single track and getting uncomfortable, but I will do almost anything to be competitive!”
Joye said “I was pretty happy with my race. I woke up feeling not quite one hundred percent, but I was still going to give it my all to try and secure the win. Trevor beat me straight up this weekend, but I’m glad it was him beating me and not anyone else.”
Jastrab and Plum make the final climb – Photo by Tammy Sanchez
On the heals of a successful first race and in the absence of her closest competitor Gwendalyn Gibson from Ramona High School, Madeline Bemis from Corona Composite stepped up with another 2nd place finish to grab a hold of the Leader Jersey in the Varsity Girls field. Similarly to her first race against Gibson, Bemis found herself in a break away race with another rider except this time it was Independent Rider Megan Jastrab. The race came down to a sprint finish which culminated in a jaw dropping moment that had everyone at the finish line reeling. As Jastrab and Bemis made their final turn Jastrab lost traction taking a slight fall. It seemed like the race was decided for only a split second before Jastrab, in a feat of incredible strength, managed to power though with just enough to overtake Bemis at the line in a photo finish for 1st. Meade Plum from Buttermilk Academy was close behind in 3rd and Hayley Richards from Murrieta Mesa High School was 4th. 5th went to Micah Mason from Tehachapi High School.
Jastrab felt good about her performance saying “over all the race went well. I had fun on course, racing my first Mtb race of the season with some amazing girls on and off the bike!” When asked what her biggest challenge was she said “The turn-around into the finish, because I started sprinting a little early and washed out.”
Bemis was a bit disappointed but she is not giving up. She commented on her race saying “it’s undoubtedly frustrating to be so close to victory two races in a row, and the finish chute fiasco was monotonously replaying in my mind the following days. But this is mountain biking, and I know these obstacles will make success even sweeter in the future. On the bright side, the course was scattered with beautiful wildflowers, my bike ran smooth, no crashes, and I have the some of the best support and sponsors who are there for me through thick and thin.”
Plum said “my race overall went very well. I did not have a great start, but once I settled into my pace and worked through a stomach cramp I was able to pull back third place and almost the leaders. I was in forth going into the last lap, I felt strong and I knew I could catch up to third and maybe get closer to the leaders. I past third place in the beginning of the lap, and kept gaining on the leaders. I finished within twenty-five second behind the leaders, which I did not think I would be able to do, so I am thoroughly pleased with my results!”
Nate Hickey from Monrovia High School MTB Club sails up Air Force Hill – Photo by Motovation Sports
JV Boys Conference A
In the Junior Varsity Boys conference there where more change ups. Nathan Hickey from Monrovia High School became the new Points Leader in the field with a 1st place finish on the day. 2nd was taken by Aidan Dingman from Newbury Park High School and 3rd went to his teammate Justin Miller, who won at Beach to Boulders. Frederic Brandt from Crescent Valley High School was 4th and Ben Allen from Hart High School rounded out the podium in 5th.
The front of the JV Boys C Conference on course – Photo by Jordyn Watkins
JV Boys Conference B
Conference B of the JV Boys is going to be an exciting race to watch at Keyesville. Taking 1st on the day Skyelar Hill from Redlands Homeschool traded places with his teammate Jonah Dinger who took 2nd on the day and 1st at race one. Hill and Dinger now both wear the Leader Jersey but at race three only one can come away with it. Cole Fiene from Temecula Valley High School was 3rd and Daniel Krall from Redlands Homeschool was 4th. Christian Atadero from Woodcrest Christian High School took snatched the final spot on the podium in 5th.
Hill said “all and all the race went well. I am very fortunate to have outstanding teammates to work with and to have such a supportive team. God has blessed our little team this year and has helped us overcome many obstacles. My favorite part of the race was working with my teammates in a pace line. The last climb and the last two descents were the most enjoyable because I was able to use the skills I have been taught at practice.”
Dinger’s race was hard fought. In his words “it was a very tough race because it was windy on the ridge and passing was also challenging. The last climb before the finish was very painful, but God gave me the strength to crank it to the top.”
Feine said that he was “really stoked to bring home 3rd Place in such a tough category! The race went really well for me, jumped out with the lead pack on the first lap of about 12-15 of us. As the race went on the pack began to get smaller, all the way down to 6 riders, dominated by the Redlands boys, who work so well together. Before the Tunnel of Love on Lap 3 I jumped up to the lead knowing that descending is my strong suit, and pulled out a bit of gap. Going into the second to last climb we were four riders deep, all stuck behind some slower traffic which caused Jonah, Daniel, and I to run up the climb as Skyelar flew by us and was on his way. Overall I am very happy to see that my training has paid off and I will continue to build off of this. I am looking forward to the next race at Keyesville!”
Tydeman Newman with Ryan Ferragmao in pursuit – Photo by Jordyn Watkins
JV Boys Conference C
Independent Rider Tydeman Newman defended his title as Points Leader in Conference C of the JV Boys with a break away race and a 1st place finish at Vail. Independent Rider Pau Costa was next in line taking 2nd and Ryan Ferragamo from Classical Academy High School took 3rd. 4th and 5th went to Independent Riders Jag Barton and Aaron Huang.
Tydeman was very pleased with his results saying “the race went super well. Great job to all the guys out there who put the suffer on.” When asked about his favorite part of the course he said “I think everyone loves the Tunnel of Love and it was just so perfect with all the rain we’ve had. I just had a great flow going down there. Air Force Hill is also pretty special because you come flying down that hill and have everyone cheering you on! It’s just a great feeling. Finally, I really like that last little climb right at the end of the lap. You come down the twisty fun downhill and think your about to go to the finish but you still have to go back up that little bonus climb!” His race was not with out challenges however and he went on to say “first off, I somehow messed up with my nutrition and for over half the race could feel my stomach was empty which didn’t feel great. Another challenge I had was just trying to wait to attack. It’s always nervous leaving your main attack until the last corners!”
Ferragamo said “the race was such a blast! Im so blessed to have the ability to compete at an extremely competitive level with the top riders in my division. We took the first two laps pretty easy but at the top of the Tunnel of Love climb on the third lap we kicked the pace up and the battle began. My favorite part of the course was Air Force Hill because the group that I was with held it wide open for the spectators giving them an awesome battle to watch unfold.”
The top of the JV Girls Field – Photo by Sue Barrick
Genevieve Plum from Buttermilk Academy was on a mission at Vail. She took 1st on the day beating out Jenna Miller who took 2nd but maintained the Leader Jersey. Alyssa Barrick from Yucaipa High School was in near the top taking 3rd for a second consecutive race and Mackenzie Steiner from Carmel Valley Composite took 4th. 5th place went to Hayley Barrick from Yucaipa High School.
Genevieve said “the race went great! I was able to open up a lead on the girls I was racing, when Jenna and I kinda ran into each other and fell over on the short rocky climb, about 3/4 of the way through the first lap,and I held on to the lead all the way to the finish. My favorite part of the course was the Tunnel of Love downhill. The main difficulty I had during the race was continuing to push myself to go hard and fast when I was in the lead.”
Miller said ” I feel like the race could have went better, but I applaud my competition putting up a great race. My favorite part of the course was definitely the down hill sections and the switch backs on the climb. The only real challenge was my competitors.”
Barrick seemed satisfied with her results saying “I feel the race went great. It was a very fun course, and I was happy on how I did. I loved the challenging downhill, and I also loved the fire road climbs. over all it was a very fun course, and I really enjoyed it. The most challenging part of the race was keeping up with the pack, the top five girls were all together throughout the whole race, and it was challenging to position myself for the finish. This made the race even more fun with the close competition.”
Sophomore Boys Conference A on course – Photo by Motovation Sports
Sophomore Boys Conference A
Newbury Park nearly swept the Sophomore Boys Conference A podium with all but one position in the top five going to their racers. 1st was taken by Jack Gilliam, the new Points Leader, who had a very strong race finishing well ahead of his nearest competition. 2nd went to Samuel Church and 3rd was taken by Ethan Todd from Hart High School. 4th and 5th were swept away by Jeremy Mudgett and Chance Lowery.
Gilliam said he was pretty happy with how the race turned out. He was excited about how the Newbury Park team raced overall but especially for his fellow Sophomore riders. Jack had a mechanical problem with his bike at the very end of the race. At the last turn before the finish line, a shifter cable detached and Jack was no longer able to shift gears as he crossed the finish line. He felt pretty lucky that the mechanical problem happened when it did and not at the beginning or middle of the race.
Ethan Todd said that he enjoyed Vail and that “it was a very fast, fun course. I learned a lot. It felt good, but I just need a little more work. My favorite part were the rollers on the fire road downhill.”
Chriestenson and Schlenker on the Tunnel of Love descent – Photo by Motovation Sports
Sophomore Boys Conference B
Conference B of the Sophomore Boys was one of the few fields of the day that remained consistent over the first race. John Chriestenson from Yucaipa High School took 1st again and maintained his right to wear the Leader Jersey. The race was close though and Jared Schlenker from Hemet High School was right on Chriestenson’s heels in 2nd. Jacob Hannibal from Yucaipa High School was 3rd, Kenny Thomas from Temescal Canyon High School was 4th, and 5th went to Hunter Key from Yucaipa High School.
When asked about his race Chriestenson said “I felt very good about the race, I felt strong throughout the race.” He did say that day was not without it’s challenge though and commented “at the first climb we all had to get off our bikes because there was a big pile up.”
Matthew Woodward celebrates as he rolls though the finish – Photo by Tammy Sanchez
Sophomore Boys Conference C
Matthew Woodward from San Clemente High School held onto his Leader Jersey with a return to the top of the podium in the Sophomore Boys Conference B field. He was followed by Cameron Natvig from El Toro who took 2nd and Nico Johnson from Carmel Valley Composite who took 3rd. 4th and 5th went to Cole Smith from San Juan Hills High School and Trevor Zanella from San Clemente High School.
Natvig said his race “went really well, as well as it could’ve strategy wise. I had a pretty solid ride giving me my first ever 2nd place in a SoCal race.”
John stated “I am stoked to get on the podium again, but I could’ve gotten second if I would have conserved energy for the last climb. I was planning to attack at the top of the last uphill switchbacks, but I was completely out of energy. I liked the last berms of the course because you can flow nicely and have a break from climbing. Unfortunately, I was getting over a cold and wasn’t really at my best for the race.”
Marjie bemis on course at Vail – Photo by El Camino HS
There was a new face at the front of the Sophomore Girls field and things are going get pretty interesting for the front of the field going into race number three. Julia Gibbons from Canyon Crest Academy took 1st on the day beating out the current Points Leader Marjie Bemis from Corona Composite who took 2nd. Sarah Wennerstrom from Newbury Park High School was in near the top at 3rd and Independent Rider Sarah Swan was close behind in 4th. 5th place went to Emma Smith from Murrieta Mesa High School.
Conference A of the Freshman Boys get their race instructions – Photo by Tony Gamberutti
Freshman Boys Conference A
Conference A of the Freshman Boys was led by Devin DeBruhl from Righetti High School who took 1st on the day and held onto his Leader Jersey. In 2nd was Hunter Zubick from Simi Valley Composite and in 3rd was Aiden Chapin from Santa Clarita Composite. 4th went to Kyle Chromy from Simi Valley Composite and the podium was rounded out by Cade Lycklama from Academy of the Canyons in 5th.
DeBruhl said “I felt like the race ran super smooth and the course was labeled well. My favorite part of the course was Tunnel of Love downhill. For climbs I liked the short rocky climb after the downhill by the jumps! I didn’t have too many challenges during the race except for the last steep climb before the finish. I had a lapper in front of me he crashed going up it in a corner. Just barely squeaked by him.”
Chapin said “the race went well, I really enjoyed the course. My favorite part of the race course was Hecklers Hill.”
Ethan Sanchez from Murrieta Mesa on course – Photo by Jordyn Watkins
Freshman Boys Conference B
Jonah Martinez from Redlands Composite had a close race with Ethan Sanchez (2nd) from Murrieta Mesa High School but managed to break away just enough to hold onto his Leader Jersey and grab another 1st place finish. Ryan Landis from Great Oak High School came in at 3rd in the field and Riley Sutton from Beaumont High School was 4th. 5th place went to Tyler Thorp from Redlands Composite.
Lanis had this to say about his race; “Overall I am very satisfied with how the race went, I maintained my third place position from Perris, Jonah and Ethan were great competition, and I think all the riders did very well out there. Since Vail Lake is my home course, this is where I am able to practice everyday so really the whole thing was my favorite. But if I had to pick a favorite spot, I would say the switchbacks at the end of the course. Fortunately, I was blessed to not have any real challenges this race.”
Philip Naddakai with riders in pursuit – Photo by Jordyn Watkins
Freshman Boys Conference C
In consistency with the other Freshman Boys field leaders Philip Nadaskai from South Orange County Composite held onto his Leader Jersey and took 1st at Vail. He was followed by his teammate Evan Eisenhart who finished 2nd and Levi Donnel from Tehachapi Composite Mountain Bike Team to took 3rd. 4th and 5th went to Independent Riders Christopher Weigle and Levi Mason.
Sofia Hillman and Jordan Hurdle from Newbury Park High School during their race – Photo by Motovation Sports
Gabrielle Richardson from South Orange County Composite made it clear that she has no intention of giving up her Leader Jersey without a fight. She was on a tear at Vail finishing well ahead of her nearest competition and taking 1st with ease. Sofia Hillman and Jordan Hurdle from Newbury Park High Shool were 2nd and 3rd. Nathalie Lai from Crescent Valley High School was 4th and 5th went to Shelby Kawell from Yucaipa High School.
Richardson said ” I feel the race was very successful and I’m proud of the outcome! I loved the course with all of its single track and steep pitches to really challenge us riders. This course is perfectly suited for my type of riding. My favorite parts are the Tunnel of love and Air Force Hill. Tunnel of Love had a fast and fun flow with all it’s rollers and short turns allowing you to pick up a lot of speed. And Air Force Hill with its fire road descent gave you speed leading up to what felt like a launch pad. Every race has challenges – for instance I had trouble clipping in at the start. Also, the tight switch backs and rocky terrain on the backside of the course made it increasingly difficult to keep my line and enough speed to make it properly around each turn, so I ended up slowing down dramatically, sacrificing my form for fear. In a crowd, the single track and bushes and tight lines on the ascents were a challenge.”
Three years ago the SoCal League pioneered it’s first middle school program with the intention to “introduce middle school aged riders to the sport of mountain biking focused heavily on skills, fun, fitness, and NICA’s “Spirit of Howdy” with a small taste of the competitive aspects of mountain biking they will find when in high school.” In an effort to allow kids to have a less pressured environment there is no team competition and no season overall standings. Instead, each race is treated as its own unique event even though many kids will likely do all four races. Even with this stepped down pressure the enthusiasm evident at the first race was contagious and there were smiling middle school riders (grades 6-8) everywhere you looked on Saturday. In the end 313 middle school riders, up from 225 last season, took to the course in six self selective categories called Experienced Boys, Experienced Girls, Novice Boys, and Novice Girls. Due to rapid growth the Novice Boys category was split into three individual fields, Novice Boys 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. The middle school riders rode two or three laps of a 3.3 mile course giving them just enough fun and excitement to be enthused but leaving the harder training and longer distance to the high school riders. No burnout wanted!
The Vail Lake Challenge marked the first time ever that the SoCal League has awarded a Teen Trail Corps TRAIL CAPTAIN award. Middle school student-athlete David Azzolin of Beaumont was awarded all four Teen Trail Corps badges (SPEAK, BUILD, RESPECT, and RIDE) thus completing the requirements to become the first Teen Trail Captain. Azzolin completed a variety of projects and tasks to earn each of the badges. According to Azzolin, “One thing I did to earn one of my rewards was working at Bogart Park on one trail called Cross. The switch backs on the back side of the trail were rutted out and there were illegal trails leading from one set of switch backs to another. There were a lot of over grown parts on the switch backs so we had to cut those parts back as well. Since both the middle school and high school team ride at Bogart we work for a certain number of hours to ride there for free. Cross is a good trail not only for the team but for hikers and horseback as well. We broke up into groups and each group had one switch back to fix. We were able to fill the illegal trails and the ruts. Overall we completed our goal of fixing the switch backs.”
The Teen Trail Corps is a new national strategic partnership between NICA and IMBA and sponsored by REI to directly incorporate youth in tomorrow’s future of trail stewardship. The idea was inspired by NICA and IMBA at the 2014 IMBA World Summit in Steamboat Springs where four students from three NICA Leagues attended the summit and conceptualized the program. It was officially launched in 2016. Teen Trail Corps mission sees young adults leading a movement encouraging and promoting trail advocacy, land stewardship, and courteous and respectful use of trails. Both NICA and IMBA hope the program can be one of the most important long term legacies we leave.
The Teen Trail Corps program is open to any NICA student-athlete (middle or high school). Students complete projects toward earning four badges which are based on IMBA’s core values of SPEAK, BUILD, RESPECT, and RIDE. After earning all four badges students are awarded the TEEN TRAIL CAPTAIN award and the SoCal League gives them a custom McLeod trail tool. We expect the Teen Trail Captain award to gain in prestige over time and be a good boost to students on their way to college or careers. The SoCal League has long encouraged teams and riders to work with local trail groups to build and maintain legal trails and to advocate for trail access. This is simply an extension of that vision. We encourage parents and student-athletes to find out more and get involved at www.teentrailcorps.org! We will be giving awards earned during our awards ceremony at races all season.
Mar 25-26: Cruise the Keys at Keyesville presented by Haro Bikes
Apr 8-9: Victory at Vail at Vail Lake presented by Jenson USA
Apr 29-30: SoCal Finals at Tehachapi presented by Hyperthreads
May 14:State Championships, Hellman Ranch, Petaluma, NorCal
The SoCal High School Cycling League was organized in 2008 to provide a well defined race season for high school student-athletes and to promote the formation of teams at public and private high schools. In 2014 that grew to include a middle school program designed to introduce middle school aged riders to the sport of mountain biking focused heavily on skills, fun, fitness, and responsibility with a taste of the competitive aspects of mountain biking. With the cooperation of local race promoters and our sponsors we produce a first class series of races in addition to providing training for coaches and riders. The League is working to make interscholastic racing the easiest way for youth to get involved in the challenging and exciting world of competitive cycling. NICA and the SoCal League exist by virtue of a range of fundraising activities, as well as generous donors, and sponsors including founding national sponsor Specialized Bicycle Components, Easton Foundations, SRAM, Trek Bicycles, and Shimano; major sponsors Kenda Tire, Clif Bar & Company, Giro, Podiumwear, and Quality Bicycle Parts; sponsors, Haro MTB, Hyper Threads, ICE Sportswear, Jax Bicycle Center, Primal, JensonUSA, Camelbak, GU, and Maxxis.