Race Report: SoCal High School Cycling League’s Race #1

Beach to Boulders, Lake Perris State Recreation Area, CA

 

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Photo Credit: SoCal League

The first race of the season is always exciting! After months of practicing, both on the trails and trainers, the first race gives riders a chance to get their jitters out and test themselves. The Lake Perris State Recreation Area venue proved to be a wonderful venue again with cooler temps, a fast and scenic course, and the most student-athletes ever participating in a SoCal race in the league’s history- 1,161 kids racing to be exact! If you ask us, #socal2020 is off to a great start.

 

 

Results and Photos HERE

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We like having Lake Perris State Recreation Area as the first venue for many reasons. The course is wide open, which is nice and safe for newer racers as they get used to passing and riding in very large fields. For veteran racers, it gives them a chance to learn and practice race tactics. Many say Perris is the easiest course, but with the road sections, twisty cyclocross segments, a sandy beach straightaway that often has wind, and limited singletrack, we think it’s one of the most challenging courses from a race-standpoint. Lastly, we like Perris because of the nice, grassy infield and large amounts of camping. Community and fun are at the heart of SoCal culture and this venue lends itself to that very much!

The weekend was fabulous! While Saturday was overcast and Sunday was partly cloudy, the weather was great for racing. Thousands attended the event and the vibe was very positive! The start area was filled with parents, families, teammates, and coaches. The same folks were there for the exciting finishes with high fives and fist bumps galore! Seeing the positive sportsmanship from so many teams made the staff smile. The Sponsor Expo was well-attended with Kenda, Haro, Velofix, and Around the Cycles hanging out all weekend. The Pit Zone was huge with tents of all sizes and colors filled with teams! Once again, the GRiT tent hosted yoga for everyone. The volunteers ROCKED and none of this would be possible without them (and of course, our coaches). Overall, it was an amazing weekend to kick off Season 12! We are looking forward to seeing everyone again at Vail Lake in less than two weeks.

Nikki Peterson,
SoCal League Program Coordinator

 

DirtZone.HeaderAnyone who has ever been to a SoCal League race knows that there is far more going on than just racing. In past seasons we tended to share only the perspectives and stories of those privileged enough to make it to the top of their fields. This season we are continuing on with a new tradition, which we started last season, and are instead trying to capture a bit clearer picture of what it’s really like, how it feels, and what it means to be involved at a SoCal League event. We’ve asked that coaches, riders, and parents share stories with us about things they experience on race weekend so that we can share with you. We’re calling this section “Tales From The Dirt Zone” and we hope to feature at least three per race report.

 

Our first story comes from Michael Legge who is the Team Director of our largest team, Newbury Park High School. With well over one hundred-student athletes this season we can help but wonder if traditions like these are the reason that the Panther ranks keep growing.

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Photo Credit: Michael Legge

Legge –

As Team Director and one of the founding coaches of the team, nothing gives me more pleasure than team traditions. Newbury Park has a few, but one of my favorites is handing out Varsity Jackets at the first race of the season.

We didn’t have to worry about it for the first couple of years but in 2015, two of our founding riders made varsity (Jake and Kyle Legge). We approached the school about recognizing their efforts with Letterman jackets but were denied because we were not an official sport.

Not to be deterred, Michele Weyman, with the help of our awesome team designer, Tony Megla, created some fantastic jackets for the following season. That is when the tradition began with Jake and Kyle Legge, Alex Karr, Ian Bowden, Matt Wennerstrom, Tyler Weyman, Tyler Faurlin and Melody Nanfito, all being the first recipients of the “Jacket.”

Each and every year, this is the one point in the season that tugs at my heartstrings. These young athletes work very hard to attain this goal. They work harder than “normal” athletes in other sports. They do not get to compete during the week like “normal” sports nor practice during school hours like “normal” sports. I think that is what helps forge the very tight nit group that is mountain biking.

Congratulations to our newest crop of “Jacket” wearers: Ido Dukler, Lance Weyman, TJ Clark and Ava Ahlberg pictured here with our Varsity Coach Bobby Langin.

 

Mountain biking is challenging. There are are so many moving parts when it comes to racing and sometimes even when we are giving our best efforts it’s just not enough. Our next story, by Sam Freiberger, focuses on the story of his race last weekend while demonstrating the mentality that we hope to see in all of our student-athletes. Great work out there Sam.

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Photo Credit: Sam Freiberger

Freiberger –

Last year I started my first season of racing for the SoCal League. My friend’s dad knew that I liked riding mountain bikes and said I should try out racing cross country. I started practicing with the St. Francis high school team in December 2018 and raced as an independent rider in the 2019 season. I immediately became friends with most of the riders and coaches and had a lot of fun practicing and racing with them.

The beginning of the 2020 racing season at Lake Perris was this past weekend and I had the 2nd call-up in the JV1 race. I found out that my old friend from St. Francis had gotten the 8th call-up. I pull up to the front line, with the other guys who got called up, and I immediately feel like it’s going to be a good race. As I got up there all of the other riders were super friendly and that made me lose the nerves that have been building up.

The race starts and everyone is helping each other out and giving one another tips and motivation. As the race continues I look behind me and see my old friend. We are in the 2nd and 3rd places spots and we are able to hold a good pace by switching off places and drafting each other. We hit the downhill single track and my chain falls off as I go over the braking bumps. Two of my St. Francis friends pass me and I end up finishing behind them in 4th. Although I was upset I was still super happy to see them place well knowing that they were happy with their results.

Ever since I joined the SoCal NICA League I’ve only experienced positive vibes and lots of fun. The NICA mountain biking community is by far the most friendly athletic community I have participated in. I can’t wait to see how the rest of the season and the future of this league plays out.

Sometimes we say things over and over and over. The reality is that there is no better teacher than experience, and we think Sophia Estes knows that’s true after her race last weekend. Many of us have experienced the sickening feeling of apprehension at a start line somewhere at some point in our lives and so we are sure many will relate to Sophia’s story. What’s we want to point out however is the lesson it can lend her peers. Take it from her not us, give your best effort every time you roll up to that start line, no matter how deep that pit in your stomach goes.

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Photo Credit: SoCal League

Estes –

Two years ago as an eighth-grader, I had begun practicing with the RICO team from Redlands. This team was easygoing, and it was not scary, yet I still felt fearful of racing. I decided to not race, but I wanted to attend races and watch my older brother race. I moved away from my fear of mountain biking and competed in other sports, such as volleyball and softball. I was avoiding my fears.

Two years later, now in my sophomore year of high school, I decided to pursue RICO once again. I couldn’t avoid my fear of racing. Practices began and we were pushed to grow stronger and faster and smarter with our bikes. I was gaining strength mentally and physically. A few months later, the first race rolled around at Lake Perris. I was terrified. I had been dreading the race for the past week. I knew the course well and had pre-rode it to help relieve some stress but that only did so much. Fast forward to the race line up, as we waited to start, I began to freak out. My thoughts were similar to “will I be fast enough” or “will I crash” and “will I remember my training”.

This being my first race, I did not know what to expect. The horn blew, and we were off. I was passing people as we climbed up the hill. The climb was hard, but I pushed myself to the top, where I could breathe as I headed into the downhill. The parts of the course that I had thought would mess me up didn’t. At the finish, I pushed hard to the line, close to throwing up, and felt relief in finishing. I ended up placing 21st out of 44. Although this was higher than I thought I would get, the more shocking fact was that out of my whole team, I was one of the top four point earners contributing to my team’s standing for the day! My mentality for future races will now be that every rider counts!

We don’t try to hide that accidents happen at the races. Mountain biking is mountain biking and it comes with a certain level of inherent risk. The awesome thing about being a part of the SoCal League family is that we take those risks together and so when things inevitably do go array we have a huge network of support to fall back upon. Our final story for this report comes from Cameron Sarrail, a rider for the Damien High School team who shared a bit about the kindness and support she experienced when things went south last weekend at Lake Perris.

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Photo Credit: Cameron Sarrail

Sarrail –

My name is Cameron, and I am a 6th grade girl on the Damien High School Mountain Bike Team. This past weekend, Beach to Boulders at Lake Perris, was my first mountain bike race. I crashed at the beginning. I crashed really hard, but it didn’t hurt as much as it shocked me. My mom and dad came to help, of course, but so did someone else. Her name was Julie, and she is from the San Jacinto High School Mountain Bike Team.

Julie was really calm about the situation. She helped me relax by getting me to breathe deeply and slowly. She said things like “listen to the birds, smell the flowers,” and other things like that. Those things made me laugh, which was a good thing! She was really encouraging when I got up and cheered when I got back on my bike to try and catch up with the rest of the pack. She was even at the finish line to see me cross.

Julie strikes me as a very caring person, and I’m glad she was there to help me. I think that this first race is going to be one I’ll remember for the rest of my life. I’ll remember Julie too, I think, for the rest of my life.

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Photo Credit: Ron Deversa, Jeremy Eisenhart, SoCal League

 

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