High school cycling makes significant contribution to US national mountain bike team
BERKELEY, Calif. — Five riders from the National Interscholastic Cycling Association program have been selected to represent the USA on the junior national team at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships, September 1-5 in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada.
Four of these riders compete in the Northern California High School Cycling League, and one comes from the Southern California High School Cycling League.
NorCal riders who qualified for the cross country national team are: Sofia Hamilton, of Sir Francis Drake High; Will Curtis, of San Rafael High; and Tony Smith, of Marin Catholic. Zach Valdez, of Hemet High, rides in the SoCal League and will compete on the cross country team as well. Varsity rider Kelsey Anderson, of Novato High (NorCal League), earned selection to the downhill national team.
Matt Fritzinger, Executive Director of NICA, said, “This is an incredible achievement for these athletes, it’s fantastic to see this kind of talent rising out of the NorCal and SoCal high school cycling leagues, I’m proud of them and wish them the best of luck in Quebec.”
NICA riders comprise half the junior national cross country team, and Kelsey Anderson is the sole US representative in the junior women’s downhill. Only a couple of high school league riders in the past decade are known to have made the national team.
Kelsey Anderson said, “This was a dream of mine for about a year and a half. It’s my second year of racing; I just got into it and love it so much I committed to it. It didn’t seem real when I found out I’d made the national team!”
Zach Valdez is under no illusions about the challenge ahead, but is looking to make the most of it. “The competition is going to be insane. A lot of those kids have been racing the whole World Cup circuit, so I can’t expect too much from myself. I’m just hoping to race to my full potential.”
Tony Smith, the youngest of the trio, still has another year of high school to go, and this year finished third in the national championship. “Before getting involved in the league in my freshman year I was not a very confident racer. I felt pressured and nervous and never really allowed myself to do well and have fun. The league is fun for kids of all levels, and without this I don’t think I would have been able to continue racing.”
Four of the high school cyclists race for the Whole Athlete cycling team in addition to their high school league schedule. This team is run by Dario Frederick, who says, “With the NICA leagues we’re on the right track in providing the fundamentals and foundation to experience the sport of cycling and allow teams the opportunity to explore athletics, regardless of ability. With such a strong foundation, progress to the higher levels of the sport is smooth, and the transition these four riders have made between the NICA leagues and the Whole Athlete UCI World Cup Team is a clear example.”
About The National Interscholastic Cycling Association
NICA is the National Governing Body for grades 9-12 interscholastic mountain biking. NICA was established 2009 with generous funding from the national founding sponsor, Specialized Bicycle Components, as well as establishing partners, Easton Foundations, SRAM and Trek Bicycles. Other fine sponsors include Clif Bar & Company, Creation Engine, GU Sports, IMBA, Primal Wear, Shimano, Mellow Johnny’s, CamelBak, Dirt Rag, Feedback Sports, Fort Lewis College, and Mountain Bike Action. The aim of NICA is to foster the development of high quality competitive cross-country mountain biking programming for High School aged athletes. NICA provides leadership, governance and program support to promote the development of interscholastic Mountain Biking Leagues throughout the United States. For more information on NICA visit www.nationalmtb.org or call 510.524.5464.
Additional info and quotes
For Sofia, who earned a silver medal at the 2010 national championship, this is reward for a concerted effort spanning years. “My first race was possibly the most embarrassing, miserable athletic experience of my life, and I cried after it, but I have come a long way since then.” Prior to the start of this year, she hadn’t seriously considered a national team slot. “Over the course of the season, as I kept doing better and better in my races and realized going to the world’s was a possibility, I started really working towards it.
Will Curtis who graduated this year from high school and won the 2010 California State Championship, finished fourth in the US national championship and rates this as an 11 on his 1-10 scale of great achievements. “It’s going to be an amazing experience,” he says. “The high school league is where this all began. Without NorCal none of this would have been possible. I had an incredible time racing in the high school league and I’m bummed to be leaving, although this next step is looking pretty awesome so far!” Will says he has been hoping for the past three years to earn a place on the national team.