SoCal sponsor Husqvarna leads out the D1 Sophomore Boys – photo credit Murrieta Mesa HS
Pavement, Dust, Sand and Heat
March 4, 2016
2016 SoCal High School Mountain
Bike Racing Series ROUND ONE
Beach to Boulders presented by Rock n’ Road Cyclery
(909) 753-3694, www.socaldirt.org
Results and Photos HERE
Perris, Calif. — If you have ever raced in SoCal at this time of year you probably know that there is really no telling what the weather will do. Last season at this time many SoCal League racers, parents, and coaches were busy servicing their bikes in the wake of a damp and dreary first race of the season. For the 536 high school student-athletes who competed at Beach to Boulders presented by Rock and Road Cyclery last weekend though it was anything but a cool cruise though the course. Racers put on quite the display hammering though a relentless course. Like an interval that wouldn’t end they pushed at 110% through the dirt, in the sand, and on the pavement. Lap times were blazingly fast in every field and you could see the toll the course had taken on faces of each racer as they came through the finish.
Ramona HS celebrate during D1 podiums – photo credit JC Belliard
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.
Ramona High School, for their first time as a D1 team, took first with podium finishes across five fields. Their presence was dominating to say least and was in addition an upset over last year’s final team standings. Undoubtedly Ramona was hard at work building their team and training program during the off season and that work has availed them in a big way. Moving up from a 7th place overall standing in the previous year they have leapt onto the scene of the 2016 season as a powerhouse team with the skills and depth to potentially have a run at the series overall podium. Ramona will undoubtedly be a team to watch in the coming weeks.
Checking in at second Yucaipa High School took a step up on the podium from where they were last year at Perris. Their second place win puts them in only few points behind the leading team and if we know anything about Yucaipa it’s that they are a force to be reckoned with. When asked about challenges they faced coaches Mike Bagg and Scott Kennedy said “Josiah works, our one male varsity rider, managed to break two derailleurs. Yet he finished the race by jogging three laps with his bike.” That is a huge defeat when you consider how small the point gap is between the top teams but mechanical issues are not unique to Yucaipa and it will be very exciting to see how the rest of the team’s season plays out.
Newbury Park returned to the podium this year with a third place finish at Perris. Interestingly Newbury Park and Yucaipa had wrested for position all last season before Newbury finally beat out Yucaipa with a 3rd place series overall standing. Will this season be reminiscent of the last? Newbury Park has been a growing powerhouse since they started four seasons ago and it certainly appears as though they are prepared to battle it out with Yucaipa yet again this season.
Woodcrest celebrating their 3rd place victory – photo credit JC Belliard
D2 competition consisted of 33 teams with El Toro HS taking the first victory of the season. When asked about what got them to this podium team director Tim Neuville had this to say about their victory; “The racers are asked to take care of the three B’s. bike, brain and body. They all did so all they had to do was to do their best.” He wanted to point out also that “Andrew Vollmer, a true freshman in his first High School race, took a solid second place finish in JV boys D2. He has demonstrated through the preseason a strong commitment to training and it paid off.” It looks like all of the team’s training has paid off and we can’t wait to see where El Toro goes from here.
Valencia HS grabbed 2nd in D2 with strong finishes in the JV Boys, JV Girls, and Freshman Girls fields. The team moved up this season from a 13th place overall standing in D2 last season. Valencia is not far behind the lead and it would not take much to move them to the top of the podium. Vail is certainly a very different course that requires a much different set of skills.
Woodcrest Christian HS came in at 3rd on the D2 podiums not far behind Valencia. The team is no stranger to the podium having had multiple top level racers and team victories. Last year Woodcrest ranked 4th overall despite facing challenges at the 3rd race. This year they are back strong as ever ready to take on the D2 fields with the same ferocity as they do volunteerism.
Temecula Valley Composite. Winner on the day in the composite category – photo credit JC Belliard
A composite team is a temporary team chartered in a specific geographic area to help grow high school mountain biking in that area until school based or home school teams can be “spun off” within 2-3 years. With the growth of the SoCal League to 14 composite teams the League exercised a new rule, which allowed composite teams to be awarded in their own category.
At race one it was Temecula Valley composite who took 1st followed by San Diego Composite in 2nd, and Corona composite in 3rd. Temecula Valley faced a major setback during the start of the Sophomore Boys D2 field. Brian Kooiman, their Team Director, said that Ryan Ferragamo got tangled up at the start and went down hard. Not wanting to quit he got back on his bike and continued to ride. He managed to tough out a full lap before he left the race for a medical assessment. Ryan had been training with intensity and was poised to do well. In Brian’s words his team managed to hold on to the victory because they “had trained to deal with potential problems and team responded to this adversity with heart and strength of character.” Whatever the reason their victor certainly is an impressive one. In previous seasons team standings have been decided by point margins that could be counted on two hands. It’s not easy winning a team podium and losing one of your star riders can on make things that much more difficult. In any case we wish Ryan a speedy recovery and hope to see him racing again soon.
Varsity Boys leader Mikael Rodgers – photo credit Motivation Sports
The Varsity Boys had it rough at this race. It was an unrelenting 22-mile pedal fest during the hottest part of the day and the competition was stiff. The top ten riders in the field in fact finished within 5 minutes of each other and up until the third lap, when Mikael Rodgers and Daniel Johnson broke away from the pack, it looked like any of the top 5 riders might have it. By lap four however it was just Mikael and Daniel (2nd in the race) out at the front and it was an all-out throw down. Whoever could sprint the longest and the hardest was going to win it. Both racers pulled in some of the fastest lap times of the day on their final laps but in the end it was Mikael Rodgers from San Juan Hills High School who soared through the finish, clinching the jersey, with a blisteringly fast final lap that was nearly a minute faster than his nearest competitor. When asked what he thought about the race Mikael had this to say. “For me the race went completely unexpected, but in a great way! Going into this race I was just hoping to get on the podium, but I did not think I would be able to win the race.” To Mikael it may have come as a surprise but to anyone following him last year as a JVD2 racer for South Orange County Composite the writing was on the wall. Mikael won nearly every race he competed in at the JV level while consistently posting lap times that rivaled varsity level racers. In addition Mikael is now racing for San Juan Hills HS, a team he helped start this season.
This year is going to be far more challenging for him and his competitors though. While Mikael faces racers like Jaron Cappos from Ramona High School (3rd at Perris) and Evander Hughes (4th at Perris) who were top contenders in varsity last year his competitors face the threat of a new challenger with the ability to reset the pace. If anything is certain it’s that these racers have all only gotten faster this season and it is going to be quite the spectacle watching them compete.
The front of the Varsity Girls pack heads out for lap 1 – photo credit Murrieta Mesa HS
Competition was fierce in the Varsity Girls field at Perris Sunday. The girls raced three laps totaling 16.5 miles, the longest of all of the girls’ fields. Madeline Bemis of Corona Composite, one of two returning varsity racers who tied for the series title last year, returned this season ready to snatch up the jersey only to find that a new and very worthy opponent had stepped up from the JV Girls field and she too had eyes for the jersey. The Varsity girls race started powerfully with the two lead ladies putting a minute gap on the pack by the time they had reached the finish to go out on their second lap. As they flew through the finish to go out on their second lap it was clear that they were a match and would likely end the race in a sprint. They appeared poised and well composed despite the fact that they had just finished the fastest girls lap of the day. At the start of their second lap it would have been easy to think that the two were barely working which of course would have been an absurd because by the end of the second lap you could see the toll the race was taking in each their faces. The pain train had pulled into the station and they were about to head out for a third lap with next to nothing left in the tank. The finish came down to a sprint culminating in both of them nearly falling off their bikes from exhaustion. When they crossed the line it was Gwendalyn Gibson of Ramona High School who took first with just a few seconds lead ahead of Madeline who was followed by Geraldine Guerrero of San Diego Composite. It was truly an exciting moment. Gwendalyn remarked that it “was probably my most intense finish in any race I have ever competed in.” That is saying something considering that both Madeline and Gwendalyn are top tier racers with a history of elite level competition. Madeline in fact came into #SoCalSeason8 on the heels of the 24-hour Solo Mountain Biking World Championships in New Zealand where she placed 1st for female U23 and 5th for elite women.
The front of the JV Boys D1 vie for position – photo credit Tony Gamberutti
JV Boys Division 1
JV Boys D1 was the largest field of the day with 95 racers competing. In similar fashion to last year this seasons JV Boys Division 1 race ended with a photo finish. Jonah Sanchez of Murrieta Mesa HS beat out Turner Conway of Yucaipa HS by one tenth of a second in one of the most exciting sprint finishes of the day. Rounding out the top five, and all finishing within eight seconds of the winner were, Travis Wagner of Ramona HS, Cayden Phipps of Newbury HS, and Christopher Martin of Yucaipa HS. Travis Wagner, who placed third, had a particularly challenging race in that he no call-up and was forced to fight his way through the pack in order to get to his podium position. He is looking forward to starting his next race with a call-up which he thinks will help him to do even better in the standings.
Kevin Vermaerke leader of JV Boys D2 – photo credit PB Creative
JV Boys Division 2
Kevin Vermaerke of Mission Viejo HS, a freshman racing JV, took first with a two-minute lead on his closest competitor. He says that he had “been doing a lot of racing/training on the road, and has only ridden his mountain bike three times in 2016.” Kevin definitely has the fitness to win races but as the season progress the courses get more technical. Vail is just around the corner and it is anything but a road course. He was followed by Andrew Vollmer of El Toro HS, Weston Giem of Valencia HS, Jack Fitzpatrick of Corona HS and Zack Villars of Victor Valley Composite.
Megan Jastrab and Meade Plum pacing during the JV Girls race – photo credit PB Creative
Last year it was Gwendalyn Gibson who owned the first place position in the JV Girls field. This year with her move up to Varsity the field is wide open for a new set of ladies. The race was won by yet another freshman with an extensive racing resume outside the League. Megan Jastrab, a freshman racing JV, from Victor Valley Composite won the field by only a few seconds. Meade Plum of Buttermilk Academy took second on the day after taking second overall last season. Micah Mason of Tehachapi HS, took third on the day after taking first overall last season. Haley Richards of Murrieta Mesa HS and Michelle Cabanas of Foothill HS rounded out the field in fourth and fifth.
Sophmore Boys D1 leader Seth Levy crosses the sand up to the Pit Zone – photo credit PB Creative
Sophomore Boys Division 1
Ramona had some serious presence on the Sophmore Boys Division 1 podium. The race was won by Seth Levy of Ramona HS. Kurtis Epps of Yucaipa HS took 2nd and was followed closely by Brayden Lessler of Ramona HS. Fourth and fifth went to Karson Basore of Ramona HS and Cody Conde of Temecula Valley HS.
It is clear that Ramona has really figured out how the team aspect of bike racing works. Just listen to Seth Levy who when asked what his favorite part of the race was Seth said “My teammates and I worked really hard together to make it happen, even though it came down to a sprint in the finish chute. My favorite part of the race was when my teammates and I had a really nice draft pack going.”
Sophomore Boys Division 2
The sophomore field at the race brought lots of new faces to the podium. Ethan Elisara of Julian Union HS won the race taking home his first victory ever as a SoCal League racer. He was followed by Brandon Kooiman of Temecula Valley Composite, Nathan Thornton and Sam Ferris of Woodcrest Christian HS, and Aaron Huang of Temecula Valley Composite.
Ethan enjoyed his race saying that “The good weather, positive vibe and tough competition all culminated in a great race! I felt really strong and able to push my physical and mental boundaries. It was also awesome to get out on the first course of the season after putting in months of training.” He was joined by many other who, like him, said that their favorite part of the race, besides crossing the finish line, was the downhill single track.
Sophomore Girls was another exciting race culminating in a sprint finish between Stassa Cappos of Ramona HS and Keturah Ursa of Tehachapi HS. The leaders were followed by Kara Thompson of Redlands Home School in 3rd, Bailey Krall from Redlands Home School in 4th, and Kylie Lennox of Great Oak HS who rounded out the podium in 5th.
Stassa “felt the race went well and [she] had a lot of fun.” She said that her favorite part of the course was “the flowy single track section.” and that the biggest challenge she faced was the sprint across the sand with second 2nd place finisher Keturah Ursa.
Freshman Boys Division 1
The freshman fields are always fun to watch as everyone is new to high school racing and there is the most unbridled enthusiasm during the first race of the year. Freshman Boys D1 was won by Seth Hampton from Redlands Home School. Chase Niblack and Alexander Williams of Yucaipa HS took 2nd and 3rd in a three way sprint against Micah Chitraoff (fourth) of Murrieta Mesa HS. Jack Gilliam of Newbury Park HS came in at 5th.
The win was a big one for Seth who said that he “felt very excited and nervous” coming into the race and that he had “been looking forward to being part of the high school races for a year.” Alex Williams shared that sentiment saying that “It was the first time I have gotten top five and I ended up getting third which made me really excited.”
Freshman Boys Division 2
Ryan Jastrab joined his sister on the podium finishing first in his category (his sister Megan won JV Girls). He was followed by Tristan Cobb of Crescent Valley HS, Ben Allen of Hart HS, Ethan Todd from Hart HS, and Eric Duran who took 5th for San Diego Composite.
Ryan had a lucky win considering he won on a margin of only three seconds after having to fix a chain derailment. He said that he “went in with a plan…stay near the front! Being in the front would allow me to descend the single track without having to spend time strategizing about or passing other competitors. I had to put in additional effort on the climb, but it paid off.”
Twenty eight new high school racers kicked off the Freshman Girls series with Alyssa Barrick of Yucaipa HS taking 1st followed by her teammate Hayley Barrick in 2nd. Genevieve Plum of Buttermilk Academy took 3rd and Megan Lansing from Woodcrest Christian HS came in at 4th. North County Composite rounded out the podium with Mckenzie Steiner in 5th.
With the opener complete we now turn to the Vail Lake Challenge presented by JensonUSA the weekend of March 12-13 in Temecula. Saturday at 3:00 PM the SoCal League middle school contingent will have its first race of the season while Sunday the high school racers will face a much different course than at the opener. Where Lake Perris was fairly wide open and straight forward with one long moderate climb, Vail Lake twists and turns on both the uphills and downhills with more technical terrain to test different skill sets.
March 12-13: Vail Lake Challenge
presented by JensonUSA, Vail Lake Resort, Temecula
April 2-3: Dam the Torpedoes!
presented by WorldwideCyclery.com, Castaic Lake
April 23-24: Victory At Vail
presented by Primal Wear, Vail Lake Resort, Temecula
May 7-8: SoCal Finals at Techachapi
presented by Hyper Threads, Tehachapi
May 21-22: State Championships, Los Olivos, SoCal Hosts
• Full information available HERE
About the SoCal High School Cycling League
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, and Trek Bicycles; major sponsors Kenda Tire, Primal Wear, Bicycling, Clif Bar & Company, Giro, Podiumwear, and Quality Bicycle Parts; sponsors Casino Bicycles, Haro MTB, Husqvarna Motorcycles, Hyper Threads, ICE Sportswear, Jax Bicycle Center, JensonUSA, Camelbak, GU, and Maxxis.
SoCal High School Cycling League | 34504 Collier Falls Court, Temecula CA 92592
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