SANTA YNEZ, Calif. — The “regular season” concluded for the 2010 SoCal Interscholastic League Series at the scenic Stump Grinder Dirt Club at Charlotte’s Meadow near Santa Ynez, California. Under sunny and warm conditions, a total of 140 student athletes competed at this fourth and final round on a fun 6.4-mile course consisting of rolling singletrack trails and several long, flat, fast fire roads. Not only were the day’s bragging rights on the line, but several class championships were still to be decided, making the racing as hard fought as ever. A number of competitors were also using this event as training for the State Championships to be held May 16 in Grass Valley, California — a NorCal/SoCal shootout!
As has been the case all season, attendance at this event was approximately double the number from 2009, the first year of the SoCal League. This impressive growth bodes well for the future of the sport and mirrors the trend of the parent National Interscholastic Cycling Association. The founding NorCal League, formed 10 years ago, is now consistently drawing participation numbers close to 500, the Colorado League begins racing this fall, and new leagues are currently being formed in Texas, Washington and Wisconsin.
The success of the SoCal League would not be possible without the enthusiasm and support of all the parents, coaches, sponsors and dedicated volunteers involved in the series. Leading the way has been Executive Director Matt Gunnell and his crew, including Sean McCoy, Erik Trogden, Kathy Horton, Connie Valdez, Melody Peery, Denise Bianco, and Peggy Sue Lansing.
No championship was more closely watched at this event than the Teams competition. This season 19 teams from San Luis Obispo in the north to San Diego in the south took part in the action. It was a tight race at the top throughout the year, but in the end it was Hemet High School taking Santa Ynez honors as well as the 2010 title. Hemet High narrowly edged 2009 champion Newport Beach Composite, with Yucaipa High School, Rim of the World High School and Woodcrest Christian Cycling rounding out the top five for the day and the overall standings.
Hemet High Head Coach Peter Kirkham was understandably proud. “We’ve been working toward this since a year ago right here, when Newport beat us,” he said. “It’s been a fantastic series with the competition between us and Newport and Yucaipa and Rim and everybody else. We just happened to get it right this year. All the kids and coaches and parents have been really supportive. I told the team this morning that no matter what happens, I was totally proud of them. It doesn’t get much better than this.”
The cornerstone for Hemet High’s success was once again Zachary Valdez, who completed a clean four-race sweep of the Varsity Boys class. This down-to-earth young man knocked out four blazing laps to win by a comfortable margin at Santa Ynez, despite feeling a bit queezy. “I had a different energy drink than usual and it messed up my stomach pretty bad,” said a pale Valdez. “I was feeling sick for the first couple of laps and on and off for the rest of the race.”
Just as they have all season, Yucaipa High’s Tucker Trotter and Brady Kiss raced each other closely all day. This time it was Kiss prevailing by less than a minute in this inter-squad skirmish, perhaps inspired by the crowd singing Happy Birthday to him on the starting line. As he put it, “Zach took off and left Tucker and I to battle for second. It went back and forth on the first and second laps but I was able to hold him off the last half of the race. I was fortunate not to have any problems other than slipping a pedal at the start. I was very happy to get second on my birthday; it was a great present.”
The JV Boys class championship went right down to the wire, as Casey Williams and Chris Johnson had been dueling in every race this season; it was no different at this event. Both riding as Independents, Williams and Johnson spent the first lap nose-to-tail in front of the largest class of the day, with 48 riders. Williams was able to establish an 18-second gap by the end of the second lap, then stretched it out by just over another minute on the third lap to win the race and the title. Johnson maintained second while Brandon Kirkham (Hemet High), who started the year in the Freshman class, had an outstanding ride to place third.
According to Williams, “I led out on the first lap and then we worked together on the back side of the course. I’d build a gap on Chris on the climbs and then he’d get back on the downhills. He was having a strong day. Finally on the last lap I was able to get away. I’m happy with the whole series. It was fun and a great experience.”
“My main goal was to stick with Casey and try to break him down mentally,” explained Johnson. “I was pushing the whole time but he got a little lead on me on the second lap that I couldn’t quite close. It was hot, and wearing a black jersey didn’t help. Thanks to my Dad throwing ice cold water on my back, I was able to cool down a little. But I feel good about the race and the season.”
Cody Phillips (Independent) came out on top of the closest race of the day in the 32-rider Sophomore Boys class, which went three laps instead of its usual two in preparation for the State Championships. Phillips shadowed series leader Alex Milewski (Newport Beach) for almost the entire 19-mile distance, until just before the finish.
As Milewski related, “We were together the whole race. I wanted him to pass but he never did. I fell trying to pass someone, and that’s when he got by. It ended up being a sprint at the end, and he beat me by just a few seconds. It was a fun race, and that’s what matters.” Milewski could also take plenty of comfort in the fact that he finished the season in the leader’s jersey.
“I followed Alex for the whole race until there was about two miles to go,” said Phillips. “The most important thing was making the pass with enough speed to make some separation between us. My chain actually came off not long after that but I was able to get it back on quickly.”
Dillen Maurer (GUSD Composite) finished third, about three minutes back.
Yucaipa High School’s Alex Bagg wrapped up the Freshman Boys championship with his second consecutive win. After an eventful first lap, Bagg threw down a stunning second lap to build a comfortable margin of victory. As he described his day, “Starting off on the first lap I was feeling terrible, cramped up and sick. Then I went off the trail and dropped back to fifth. I was able to pass back into second on the downhills, and got around Nick Schultz near the end of the first lap. He passed me back on the first uphill because I was feeling really bad, but got around him again on the downhill and was able to recover.”
Schultz (Independent) ended up finishing the race in a sprint with Tyler O’Brien (SLO Chiweenies) to take second on the day and in the series. “I took a couple of soil samples but overall I think my day was awesome,” said Schultz. “I feel good about my results, considering it’s my first year racing.”
Third overall for the season was Lucas Rowton (Crescenta Valley), who was fourth at Santa Ynez.
Defending Varsity Girls champion Tiana Row (Independent) won for the third time in 2010 to easily retain her title. “That first climb is really intense, with the switchbacks, but I was able to stay on my bike all three laps. The second lap was the hardest for me but I was able to push through and give everything I had on the third lap. It was fun and I’m happy; I’ll be back next year,” she stated.
Row was followed across the line by Newport Composite teammates Leila Carillo and Rachel Somerville, with Jasce Goldsmith (Hemet High) hanging tough for fourth place.
Emma Klingaman (Hemet High) was thrilled with her first JV Girls victory. “I’m really happy with how it turned out,” she enthused. “I really wanted this race. I held back a little on the first lap to make sure I had some energy for the second lap. Then I put the hammer down to try to get the first climb out of the way, and it worked.”
Second for the day was Rim of the World High School’s Maddy Horan, who was hampered by a sore knee suffered while playing soccer a year ago. “It’s the first time it’s affected me in a race,” she explained. “It was tough on the uphills, but it ended up being fine. Emma did great today.” Horan still had plenty to be satisfied about, as she finished the season as JV Girls champion, with Klingaman in the runner-up position in the final standings.
Third overall for the day was Vhasti Schmidt (Woodcrest Christian), while third for the series was Sophie Wilson (Santa Barbara Composite), who finished sixth at Santa Ynez.
It was another outstanding race for Jennifer Valente (Independent), as she claimed her fourth straight Frosh/Soph Girls win by two minutes over Alyssa Valenzuela (Independent). “Right from the beginning Alyssa took off and I followed,” reported Valente. “Alyssa is a great climber and I was really working to stay with her. On the second lap I was able to get away on a downhill and hold first till the end. It was a great end to the season and I can’t wait till next year. I’m really looking forward to racing in the SoCal League again. I’ve had so much fun and learned a lot.”
Lindsey Chase (Newport Composite) rolled in for third place, while Pamela Bogust (Crescenta Valley) placed fourth and Tania Kartolova (Crescenta Valley) fifth. Those top five would also make up the top five in this class for the season.
Upcoming series events:
May 16, State Championships, Grass Valley, CA
About the Southern California Interscholastic Cycling League
The SoCal Interscholastic Cycling League was organized to provide a well-defined race season for junior racers and to promote the formation of teams at public and private high schools. With the cooperation of local race promoters and our sponsors, the League organizes a first class series of races designed for high school aged riders. The League is working to make high school racing the easiest way for juniors to get involved in the challenging and exciting world of competitive cycling. The SoCal League was founded with a generous grant from the Easton Sports Development Foundation II (ESDF II) and is supported by other generous sponsors such as Specialized Bicycle Components, as well as SRAM, Trek Bicycles, Clif Bar and Co., Primal Wear, GU Sports, Turner Bicycles, the Palos Verdes offices of Merrill Lynch, Dr. John Gunnell Oncology, Crank Brothers, Fox Racing Shox, Dirt Rag, Feedback Sports and Mountain Bike Action. For more information on the League, visit http://www.socaldirt.org or contact Matt Gunnell at email@example.com and 818-415-1133.
source: Phil Beckman