Temecula, CA – The dust has settled after yet another fantastic weekend of racing in SoCal. Last weekend 843 student athletes returned to tackle the Vail Lake Venue and this time around they raced on a longer and more challenging course that featured extra climbing and a little bit more of the fun stuff. Temperatures finally returned to their typical levels with both days hitting the mid 80’s at points, a welcome change given the unusually damp season we have had thus far. The change in the weather meant that riders found themselves racing in entirely different conditions than they had at the Vail Lake Challenge. Out on course things were in constant flux as hundreds of tires swept through, grinding away at the venues compacted dirt, turning many sections of trail into silty slip and slides. On the High School side racers faced the challenge of Marine Corps Hill, a short yet extremely punchy climb, which had many running their bikes to the top. There were new twist and turns just before the finish and even the finish strait itself added a degree of difficulty with the advent of a new section that forced riders to make a short, gear grinding, climb just before they sprinted home. If anything could be said about Victory at Vail it’s that it made for a challenging weekend on the bike, but that’s what we hoped for. As the season goes on the courses are supposed to get slightly more difficult. Each added challenge in some way plays to the strengths and or weaknesses possessed by our riders and the hope is that ultimately each change will serve to foster a robustness of competition throughout the season. This was borne out last weekend as we gathered around the finish to watch, amid the cheers of hundreds of spectators, as many riders rolled though in field jostling positions. Now only one race remains in #SoCalSeasonX and for many their position in the Series Overall is anything but certain. There is much to consider as we head to Tehachapi but we will let them tell the story. Race report incoming…
Brandon La Rue
Associate League Director
El Toro on the Podium at Vail- photo by Motovation Sports
On the Division One side of team competition the top five teams are now locked in a close battle for the Series Overall top spot. We know for certain that any of the three could claim the Season Ten 1st Place Team Overall title come Finals but all will have to be at their very best as each has been fielding stellar riders all season. This time around Yucaipa High School nabbed the 1st place spot with Newbury Park High School coming in at 2nd and Murrieta Mesa High School stepping back into the mix in 3rd.
Yucaipa’s Head Coach Scott Kennedy told us that “The team really came together at Vail. What a fun course! We are immensely proud of how our riders are doing this season. The training, technique and mechanical preparation are continuing to pay off. With a big team, it is truly inspiring to see some personal bests aside from the “points race.” As a coach, seeing a team work together to accomplish a shared vision makes it all worth it. We’ve enjoyed the back and forth close competition with awesome programs at Newbury Park, Redlands Home School and Murietta Mesa and we’re looking forward to a fabulous and exciting SoCal Finals in Tehachapi May 6th.”
Newbury Park’s Head Coach Michael Leagge kept it short and sweat saying “It almost went as planned. A few hiccups kept us from the top spot on the podium. We knew it would be a battle with Yucaipa. They are a great team. We still hold the overall but they are chasing us down! Our goal for the end of the season is #1.”
In Division Two it looks like Hemet High School may be starting to pull away as the top team this season. Rim of the World High School is definitely still in the running for top D2 team though. At Vail result were close with Rim of the World pulling in just ahead of Hemet who was 2nd and El Toro who was 3rd.
Rim’s Head Coach Kathy Horton said “Vail Lake is an awesome venue to race but we weren’t sure how we would do with two consecutive races. To our excitement we were able to take home another 1st place team trophy. We know we have Hemet right on our tails so we will challenge ourselves these next few weeks until Tehachapi league finals so we can maintain our position. ”
El Toro’s Head Coach Marion Hoppen told us that “It feels intense, when you start your day as a coach on a race day and you see more dogs than racers under the pit zone tent. Total of six dogs and five racers. The intensity rises as the day starts out with our Freshman Boy, Zander Hoppen, leading most of the race just until the finish line shoot, missing a cone and going the wrong way. Fortunately, he was lucky to finish in 3rd place!!! Our Freshman Girls, Danielle Natvig finished at 9th place and Crishelle Christman finished at 16th place. Our JV Boys, Nic Paulson came in at 9th and Cameron Natvig who was racing his second race for the season came in at 11th place. Overall we were able to keep our 3rd place position in Division 2. Sean Hickey, Head Coach from Monrovia, who is 4th place overall, pointed out that he gets beaten not only by one female Head Coach but, also gets beaten by the Hemet HS Coach, Gail Polvoorde and Rim Of The World HS coach, Kathy Horton. Sorry Sean, we know you are a true sportsman and gentleman. With only one race left, we hope all the riders stay healthy and keep up training for the next few weeks to finish the season strong.”
The top three composite teams in the Series Overall were at it again at Vail with Redlands Composite taking 1st, Corona Composite in 2nd, and South Orange County Composite. We will be watching the composite category closely as all three of these teams have been the only ones to grace the podium in the category this season. It’s going to be a close match and we can’t wait to see how it turns out.
Bryan Rail’s, Head Coach for Corona Composite was pleased with his team’s performance at Vail. He stated “I think the race went great! The kids put hard work into this venue and it showed with their results. It would be nice if the team could move up a spot at finals but with that said as long as the kids do 100% we can’t ask for anything more.”
The Varsity Boys head into the infield after a lap – photo by Motovation Sports
The volatility of the Varsity Boys field has been quite exciting to watch this season. The boys have been mixing it up since the beginning which means that going into Finals we really have no idea where any of them will land. This time around we saw Nathan Hickey from Monrovia High School return to the podium in the 1st place position, reclaiming the Leader Jersey. Hot on his heals was Jonah Sanchez from Murrieta Mesa High School in 2nd. 3rd went to Santa Maria Valley Composite’s Devin Debruhl and 4th was taken by Independent Rider Tydeman Newman. Seth Hampton from Redlands Homeschool was the final Varsity Boy to reach the podium on the day, claiming 5th.
Sanchez gave us a little insight into his race saying ” I feel like the race went very well. I felt strong and was still able to pull off an awesome result, despite having raced the day prior for the second week in a row!! The big challenges during the race for me was the added descent before Tunnel of Love. Three out of four laps I hit the same section too fast making me lose a little bit of time in the middle and the end of the race. In the end, that was the deciding factor, letting Nate just a couple seconds that held out for the remainder of the race. Coming out of Vail I am pretty stoked, I am not going to be racing Tehachapi on tired legs, I have almost managed to close the points gap between myself and the leaders, and Finals is always a new experience, never the same. That is going to make the overall competition really exciting to see who takes the jersey going into States!!”
Debruhl told us that “This race was super fun! The course made for some great racing. The extra Varsity climb was the deal breaker on the last lap as Nathan attacked and me and Jonah followed. Jonah and I were slowly catching up to Nathan but were just short at the finish. Jonah and I had an exciting last sprint! I was super happy about how the race went and I am always stoked riding such amazing riders. The final race I really want to be on the top step. The top four in points for the series are all so close which means Tehachapi is going to be the most important race of the season. I can not wait for that race to come!”
A group of riders head to Marine Corps Hill Sunday – photo by Motovation Sports
To say we are excited about watching Varisty Girls competition at Finals would be an understatement. Madysen Rails from Tehachapi High School manged to snag herself another 1st place at Vail, moving her into position to potentially overtake the current Series Leader in the field, Meade Plum, come Finals. Rails will need to be prepared to go for another 1st but may be in luck given that the venue is on her home turf, we will just have to wait and see. Mckenzie Steiner from Carmel Valley Composite was 2nd on the day with Hayley Richards from Murrieta Mesa High School following her in by on a few seconds to take 3rd. 4th and 5th went to Meade Plum from Buttermilk Academy and Alyssa Barrick from Yucaipa High School.
According to Rails “The race went extremely well and seeing my hard work paying off is huge motivation, but couldn’t do it without the support of my team and my coach, Jamie Carillo. The heat was a big challenge throughout the race, but luckily ice cold water solved that… until I dropped my bottle on the beginning of my last lap. That kinda changed the mentality of my last lap and it became a game of survival and not overdoing it without water. I would love to take the Leaders Jersey at my hometown race, and have another great race and keep making progress going into the SoCal Finals and States.”
Steiner told us that she had some challenges during her race. She said that “Overall I think the race went well, Madison was clearly riding really strong and I crashed four times so clearly she was also riding a more conservative and intelligent race then I was. My biggest challenge this race was probably tarantula, because two of the four times I crashed were on tarantula. I thought that section of the course was super fun but since the competition was so high I ended up taking a lot of risks on it. Going into the last race of the season I’m hoping for more of the same really intense competition and fun racing.”
Two Murrieta Mesa teammates tackle Marine Corps Hill together – photo by Niki Gray
JV Boys Conference A
The JV Boys Conference A field is headed for a showdown with the top two boys now charging towards a potential Series Overall tie. Last weekend Aiden Chapin stepped to the top of the podium claiming his first 1st place finish of the season. Independent Riders Kyle Chromy and Hunter Zubick, the current front runners for the Series Overall, took 2nd and 3rd. Independent Rider Eric Duran was 4th and 5th went to Noah Libeskind from Claremont High School.
Chapin commented on his win saying “I felt the race went really well. It was the best race! I felt great. Kyle, Hunter, and I worked together the whole race. It was great. I did have have a few challenges getting around the lappers. My expectation going into Tehachapi is that my competitors stay healthy and to enjoy the whole experience of the race.”
SoCal’s rocking announcer JJ Fresh shows off some Season 10 swag – photo by SoCal League
JV Boys Conference B
Corona Santiago’s Blake Wray may be able to pull off a series sweep after winning yet another race in Conference B of the JV Boys. Wray has now won four of five total races in the field but hes gonna need to show up and cross the line in 1st just more more time if he plans to pull of the hat trick. Were sure the rest of the field sees that big target on Wrays back and we know many will be looking to steal away his glory come Finals. We will be looking for the rest of the fields top riders like Ethan Sanchez from Murrieta Mesa High School who was 2nd on the day and Hemet High School’s Ben Browen who was 3rd to go for the upset. We also expect some shifting around on the Series Overall podium in the field and so we are expect to see some more exciting racing from Cray Minor of Temecula Valley High School who took the 4th place spot at Vail and Zachary Mapes from Great Oak High School who rounded out the podium in 5th.
A host of middle school racers descend the Tunnel of Love single track – photo by Motovation Sports
JV Boys Conference C
Jonah Martinez from Redlands Composite is on the path to sweeping the series in Conference C of the JV Boys after taking his fourth 1st place at Vail. Alexander Williams from Yucaipa High School pulled in his third 2nd place and 3rd went to Jeremy Mudgett from Newbury Park High School. Philip Nadaskai from South Orange County Composite was 4th and 5th was taken by Jack Gilliam from Newbury Park High School.
Mudgett was happy with his performance and told us that “The race went really well for me. I felt great, the track was fun and I liked this course better than the first Vail.” He said that he did face some challenges however and that his “chain snapped at the very end of the second lap, but I had a masterlink and was able to fix it and worked my way back up by the end of the race.” He went on to tell us that going into the final race of the season he hopes “to finish my season strong and get a chance to be on the overall podium.”
A Freshman Girl makes her way up Air Force Hill – photo by David Viero
Lookout! The possibility of yet another tied up Series Overall Leader Jersey exist at Finals. Last weekend Shelby Kawell upset the JV Girls field, taking her first 1st of the season. In doing so she set Jordan Hurdle from Newbury Park High School, who was 2nd on the day, on a path that opens the opportunity for a tie with current Series Leader Julia Gibbons from Canyon Crest Academy who was 3rd on the day. 4th went to Marjie Bemis from Corona Composite and 5th was snatched up by Nathalie Lai from Crescenta Valley High School.
Kawell gave us an excellent synopsis of her race saying “I feel that the race went pretty well from to the start to the finish, I was a little tired while warming up from racing on Saturday but I decided to just push through the pain off the start and my legs felt amazing. We started off all together then slowly started to break down into our groups. Going up Marine Corps Hill the first lap I was able to make up a position then second lap I decided to pass Jordan before we entered the single track heading up to Marine Corps and I was able to get a gap going.
I personally didn’t really have any challenges during the race, I really like this course and how well we all worked together. Going into the final SoCal race is pretty crazy. It doesn’t seem like we are this far in the season, I remember the Lake Perris race like it was yesterday but I’m super excited to be going into the final race and to be working with all the amazing girls!”
Hurdle had good things to say about Vail. She commented “As we started the second Vail race of the season, I was stoked to be back at my favorite venue. The course was awesome with fun climbs and flowy downhill. Coming into my second lap, Shelby Kawell and I worked together to gain a gap, and eventually Shelby pulled away taking the win. A huge congrats to her and also congrats to Julia Gibbons for holding onto the Leaders Jersey!! I am beyond excited to see the racing that will go down at the SoCal Finals and then onto States.”
Gibbons did not have the race she planned but she will be back at Tehachapi. She told us that she ‘didn’t feel great about the way my race played out for me. I didn’t perform well in the heat, but the course was still fun, like always. My biggest challenge was the heat. I let it get to me and had a hard time powering up the climbs. I really hope to keep the points lead going into states, so I’ll be training hard from now until Tehachapi.”
Hordes of spectators gather to watch riders finish Sunday – photo by SoCal League
Sophomore Boys Conference A
Levi Mason from Santa Maria Valley Composite need only finish one more race to take the Series Overall in Conference A of the Sophomore Boys. Mason took his fourth 1st place at Vail which means that he could sweep the series but after last weekends race it looks like Independent Rider Evan Duran, who took 2nd on the day, may be looking to steal away his chance. Quinn Hild from Saugus High School was back on the podium, finishing 3rd at Vail, and Garrett Cox from Claremont High School was in at 4th. The field was rounded out with Academy of the Canyons rider Cade Lycklama stepping in to the 5th place spot.
Mason said that he felt like the race went well. He stated that “The course was in good condition on Sunday, and the dirt was really fast rolling. I didn’t have any mechanical or physical challenges. The only challenge was finding a safe spot to pass slower riders. My goal is to win at Tehachapi and have an undefeated season. I am also looking forward to racing at Tehachapi because the downhills are a little more technical than Vail so I can’t wait to see what happens with the lead pack!”
It’s no secret the the SoCal League runs on a culture of Volunteerism – photo by Phil Nist
Sophomore Boys Conference B
Conference B of the Sophomore Boys is going to be one of the closest fields to watch as we head into Finals. Currently all three of top boys from Vail have a shot at the Series Overall and all three have proven over the course of this season that they have what it takes to lead the field. This time around Ryan Landis from Great Oak High School took the 1st place spot over current Leader Riley Sutton from Beaumont High School(2nd). 3rd was taken by Robert Zachweija from Great Oak High School and 4th went to Cole Colita from Temescal Canyon High School. Nicolas Despras from Coachella Valley Composite Team claimed the final podium spot in 5th.
We love hearing about our racers competing outside of the SoCal League, especially when we see them on the podium after having raced the day before at one of those outside events. It really gives one a sense of the level at which SoCal League student athletes compete. Landis was did just that at Vail. He told us that he felt “that this race went very well even after racing the day before at Bonelli Park. Our pace was much faster than the rest of the season which made it a very fun race. The main challenge during this race was mentally not looking back and getting too comfortable in my lead. Going into the last race of the season, I am hoping to win and take the series overall but this season has been a very interesting one so no one knows what is going to happen.”
Spectators gather to watch riders ascend Air Force Hill – photo by Niki Gray
Sophomore Boys Conference C
Tyler Thorp from Redlands Composite is headed for a series sweep after winning yet another race at Vail. This time around he had a closer race but managed to pull away on his second lap to beat out Bronson Voss from San Juan Hills High School who took 2nd on the day. Ido Duckler from Newbury Park High Schol was back on the podium, taking 3rd, and 4th went to Bryce Halovaik from Redlands Composite. Lance Weyman from Newbury Park High School was the final rider to make it to the podium in the 5th place spot.
Voss said “It was a fast pace race from the onset. Lance Weyman jumped out mid-way through the first lap followed by Tyler Thorp ratcheting up the pace during the final lap. Given the pace of the race, it went better than I expected. I hope to maintain a podium position and continue moving up in the ranks.”
Spectators cheer as a rider runs his bike to the finish – photo by David Viero
There seem to be a good deal of front running riders sweeping fields this season and Brooke Wallasch is part of that trend. Wallasch took her fourth 1st of the season at Vail, placing her in a secure spot for the Series Overall. Sophia Schaeffer from Tehachapi High School and Kristin Leutgeb from Canyon Crest Academy took 2nd and 3rd on the day placing themselves in a tie for the 2nd place spot in the Series Overall. Heleena Fisher from Beamont High School was 4th and 5th was taken by Payton Brown from Valencia High School.
Wallasch said she felt lucky to have such a good race at Vail. In her words “Considering that several riders were injured throughout the day during the other races, I feel that the Sophomore Girls race went relatively well given there were few if any major injuries. The main challenge during the race was passing. I am excited for the final race and hope to give it all I’ve got to finish off a great season.”
Schaeffer said she “really enjoyed the course and the new additions. I think that the race went well except the dust was pretty annoying and I wasn’t able to make it up Marine Corps Hill this year which was a bummer knowing I could the year before. My challenges this race were that I had a cough, sore throat, and stuffy nose, which, with the dust, made it hard to breathe. In addition I twisted my ankle the night before which made running up Marine Corps very painful. Honestly I was just hoping to make podium thinking about my health but I was able to pull off 2nd which made me very proud. Also Marine Corps is tough but I always love a challenge. I am very excited for the Fnals especially since it’s on my home course. I am ready to give it my all and hopefully improve a lot and push myself to my full potential. I am also sad though that the race season is ending so quickly but I am excited to see how all my hard work payed off this year.”
A field heds out, creating a wall of dust for spectators – photo by David Viero
Freshman Boys Conference A
Conference A of the Sophomore Boys will be another one of the more exciting fields to watch come Finals. Currently the only prediction that we can make is that there are too many possibilities to make a call. Freshman fields tend to be quite volatile and that has certainly been the case in this field this season. Volatility makes for the best spectating though and we would expect that given the stakes, Finals will be a great race to watch for the Conference A Freshman Boys. What we can tell you about the field is that last weekend Independent Rider Matthew Kei was the front runner. He took 1st on the day to beat out both Brandon Provost from Crescenta Valley High School(2nd) and Series Leader Independent Rider Zeke Van Rooyen(3rd). Josiah Hopkins from Tehachapi Composite Mountain Bike Team was 4th and 5th went to Aidan Soto from Saugas High School.
Van Rooyen had a tough time at Vail and told us that his race didn’t go as he had hoped. He said “I had some mechanical issues and a crash. On the first lap I was in the lead and then Matthew attacked from behind. I was able to go with him but I dropped my chain and couldn’t get it untangled. I started coasting down the single track and somehow it untangled. I got off and put it on. During this time I lost several positions. I was able to chase back on and move up to 3rd. Congrats to Matthew and Brandon Provost on a great race. This last race is going to determine the Series Overall win. It’s a really tight race between myself and Matthew Kei as we both have two wins. I’m going to train hard, race hard, and it will be exciting to see how it plays out.”
A group of riders make one of the final turns before the finish – photo by David Viero
Freshman Boys Conference B
Ethan Villaneda maintained his Leader Jersey at Vail taking 1st on the day over Carson Minor from Temecula Valley High School who was 2nd. Villaneda will have to keep up the good work if he plans to stand atop the Series Overall podium however as the margin for error is narrow at best. Aidin Papell from Murrieta Mesa High School was the 3rd place rider on the day and 4th was taken by Preston Fox from Corona Santiago Mountain Bike Club. Corona Composite’s Diego Perez was the final rider on the podium in 5th.
Villaneda said “The race went great! Super fun course with new features and sections made for a super fun race! The main challenge that I faced was setting the pace. The first lap was a super fast lap. I was trying to make a gap between Carson and Adin but they stayed within eyesight for almost the whole race. I probably could have paced myself a little bit better. I expect it to be a very brutal and competitive race out there. I know everyone is going to be trying to get their points up for the Series Overall results so I have to stay on my game. Another expectation I have for myself is giving my personal best and giving God all the glory. I’m really hoping to keep the Leader’s Jersey and represent SoCal at States.”
A racers checks his six as he heads toward the final turn – photo by Phil Nist
Freshman Boys Conference C
Brandon Thede from Laguna Beach Interscholastic Mountain Bike Team may be able to take the Series Overall but after last weekends race we know he will be checking his six at Tehachapi. Brandon finished 1st at Vail to maintain his Leader Jersey in a very close race against Daniel Hirota from Simi Valley Composite(2nd) and Zander Hoppen from El Toro(3rd). TJ Clark from Newbury Park High School took the 4th place spot and 5th was swept up by Carter Kawell from Rim of the World High School.
Two riders race to be the first to crest Air Force Hill- photo by Motovation Sports
There are a number of possibilities for the Freshman Girls as we head toward finals, one of which is a tied up Series Overall Leader. We’ve seen mixed result from all of our top girls in the filed this season and Vail was no different. This time Eva Lintereur from Santa Clarita Composite was back to leading the pack. She took 1st on the day over Lauren Lopez from South Orange County Composite who was 2nd and Emily Gables from Woodcrest Christian High School who was 3rd. Skylar Conway from Redlands Composite snagged the 4th place spot and 5th went to Tessa Greep from Damien High School who made her first podium appearance of the season.
Level 3 Middle School Girls celebrate on the podium Saturday – photo by Motovation Sports
Over the past few months we have been scratching our heads a bit. Consider this…our Middle School program just keeps growing and growing but our High School program seems to be plateauing. In fact last weekend the SoCal League hosted its largest ever Middle School race with a total 357 Middle School student athletes in competition. 357 may not sound like a lot but when you consider that on the High School side only a few hundred more racers are present on an average race day it begs the question where all the Middle School racers going. We’re not quite sure how to answer that question yet but we do know that given the tremendous growth of the program that these young guns must be having quite a good time.
It’s typical that by this time in the season for our Middle Schoolers begin to strongly resemble their High School counterparts. They start the season, some with little to no experience, rolling to the line unsure what to expect. Then a few races go by and before you know it they are out their riding with the same confidence that one would expect to see in a third year High School rider. It’s a fascinating thing to watch happen year after year and we were thrilled to see our Middle School student athletes out there showcasing their newfound skills and confidence yet again last weekend. In a few short weeks they will compete for the first time ever in a fifth season event and we think that they could not be more ready. The SoCal League is extremely proud of all it’s Middle School racers and we can’t wait to see what they have in store for us at Tehachapi.
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, Jax Bicycle Center, Primal, JensonUSA, Camelbak, and GU.