NorCal results from the Central Coast Invitational, Race #1

Greeting League coaches, athletes, parents and sponsors:

Congratulations to all on your first race of the season. It was great to see so many of you racing, coaching and spectating with such enthusiasm. For the most part we saw excellent sportsmanship demonstrated; however, there were some reports of overly aggressive passing. We know that riders were excited to do well, but we firmly believe that all League athletes can and should ride and race with the utmost of respect for their fellow racers. As such, we will address this at this weekend’s Granite Bay race. I’d be more than happy to hear your thoughts about the Central Coast Invitational, so please feel free to email me this week or next; I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks again for all your hard work out there!

Please enjoy the following race report from Gary Boulanger.

 Sincerely,

Vanessa Hauswald,

League Director in Training

Central Coast Invitational: Race Report( By: Gary Boulanger)

The first race of the 2010 NorCal High School Mountain Bike Racing League was held under cloudy skies on a 5.17-mile singletrack course snaking through Fort Ord in Seaside, California on March 7, as 491 student athletes competed for the leader’s jersey in their respective events.

Celebrating its 10th season, the NorCal League season opener was attended by nearly 1,600 student athletes, volunteers, coaches, parents and friends on a course a few miles inland from the Pacific Ocean, just 14 miles north of the Sea Otter Classic site at Laguna Seca Raceway. New NorCal League executive in training director Vanessa Hauswald was very pleased with the day’s results.

“The first race exceeded my expectations!” she said. “The course was spectacular, the volunteer support was unbelievable, and the athletes put forth an incredible amount of effort. I was also very impressed with the sportsmanship of both the athletes and the coaches. If we can get the same number of volunteers for race #2, we will again be in good shape to thoroughly support all teams.”

The 2010 season begins

Founding executive director Matt Fritzinger began the day’s racing by calling the Varsity Girls to the start line at 10 a.m., where 24 girls took the line for 16 miles, or four laps. Sophomore independent racer Shayna Powless (Ventana), the reigning Varsity Girl’s champion, finished the course in 1:20:32, beating Folsom’s Karli Haugen by 1:37 to earn the leader’s jersey heading into Race #2 in Folsom on March 21. Christine Weir (Nevada Union), Victoria Yoham (Marin Catholic) and Sofia Hamilton (Drake) rounded out the podium. Twenty-four girls raced the Varsity event.

“I had a track meet yesterday, and spun on my bike for a cool down to get ready for today’s race,” Powless said. “They changed the course a bit this year, and it was good.”

Tangled mess ends in harmony

The drama of the day belonged to the Varsity Boy’s race, as Salinas High School rider Bryan Duke and San Rafael’s Will Curtis sprinted toward the finish line after nearly 20 miles of intense racing, only to be hindered by an errant crash of two JV riders on the course.  Curtis went left to avoid the pile-up, but unclipped his foot to avoid hitting the fencing. Duke subsequently crossed the line in 1:24:31, just 36 seconds of Curtis. In a remarkable show of character, Duke asked the race officials if he and Curtis could share the victory, as well as the Varsity Boy’s race leader’s jersey.

“I knew today’s race was going to be hard, with more competition than normal, but I didn’t think I’d be going for first or second at the end,” Duke said. “I was starting to cramp in the last lap; Will was leading most of the way toward the end.”

Fritzinger was impressed. After discussing the situation with race officials, he granted Duke’s request.

“This is an honorable decision, and the kind of decision the NorCal League applauds,” he added as the Varsity Boy’s podium dwellers — including reigning national cyclo-cross champion Cody Kaiser, Alec Kassin and Chris Bennett — raised their hands to the roar of the crowd. Duke and Curtis beamed from the top step, each wearing the leader’s jersey.

“This is Will’s third season racing Varsity, and he has never won a Varsity race,” said San Rafael coach Dave Curtis and Will’s father.”  He has always been behind a John Bennett or Nate Byrom. Will was only seconds away from finally realizing his dream, only to have it suddenly vanish in a freak mishap. To Brian’s credit, he was right there and put himself in position to take advantage of Will’s misfortune. Sharing the podium with Will was a class gesture by Brian.” Forty-nine boys raced the Varsity event.

JV Girls

In the JV Girl’s race, Trojan Composite rider Maren Cosens beat Salinas High School’s Rainee Chandler by 1:10 after 12 miles of racing. Wildcat Racing’s Sofia Gomez-Villafane rounded out the podium with Chandler’s Salinas teammate Kristen DeBerdt and Monterey Bay’s Olivia Hays. Thirty-two girls raced the JV event.

Freshman Girls

In the Freshman Girl’s race, Branson Bulls Mountain Bike Club’s Kate Courtney, an avid skier, won her first-ever race in 1:04:01, beating Salinas High’s Maddie Giger by 3:26 after 12 miles on the day.  Independent racer Dominique Vanden Dries finished third, while Casa Grande’s Elizabeth Maguire and Giger’s Salinas teammate Quincee Chandler rounded out the podium. Twenty-one girls raced the Freshman event.

The day began poorly for San Rafael with a crash on the pavement start, when Bella Breen was accidentally taken out by another rider who swerved in front of her, causing three San Rafael girls to go down. They all waited a few minutes while for the EMTs to arrive, then continued on. Breen received a splint and eight stitches for a lacerated knee, and is out for a few weeks.

JV Boys

With four races already wrapped up for the day, it was time for the JV Boy’s Division 1 event, a 16-miler with 69 boys toeing the start line. At the end of a very fast race, Salinas High’s Clayton Grissom edged San Rafael’s Ford Zimmerman by 2:21 to take the leader’s jersey, winning on the day in 57 minutes. Albany’s Daniel Goodman, Redwood High’s Taylor Smith, and Goodman’s Albany teammate Alberto Santos-Davidson rounded out the final podium.

The JV Boy’s Division 2 race proved to be another fast one, if only for Oakmont’s Erik Strasser, who finished the 16-mile course in 1:01:18, more than 11 minutes before runner-up Spence Peterson of Tamalpais High. Independent racer Nick Casaccia finished third, while Novato’s Chris Ravina and Trojan Composite rider Kyle Beasy rounded out the podium. Fifty-four boys raced the JV Division 2 event.

“The top few Varsity and JV riders have always been really fast,” said Mark Kintz, coach of the Monterey Kingfishers. “What’s astonishing now is how deep that capability reaches back into the ranks. The top 15 riders in each class are all really good. As coaching programs have matured at the schools and the shared know-how has been distributed at our coach’s seminars; this is the natural outcome.”

Sophomore Boys

In the largest event of the day, 77 Sophomore boys competed in the Division 1 race, with eventual winner Steve Larson (Salinas High) beating his teammate Griffin Sims by 1:23. Larson’s time was 53:55.  Redwood High’s Devin Eastman, Drake’s Tommy Breeze, and Salinas High’s Matthew Epperson rounded out the podium. Eleven athletes didn’t finish the race, but with the second race less than two weeks away, are already getting ready for redemption.

In the closest contest of the day, Tamalpais High’s Bob Siegel pipped Branson’s Eliel Anttila at the line, winning the Sophomore Boy’s Division 2 race by 1 second after 16 heated miles of racing. A mere 25 seconds separated third- through fifth-place finishers Charlie Cone (Novato), Carson Schmeck (Jefferson), and Tyler Jones (Maria Curillo MTB Team), who finished just 34 seconds behind the top two.  Thirty-five Sophomores competed in the Division 2 event.

Freshman Boys

No less exciting was the Division 1 Freshman Boy’s race, as Woodcreek High’s Wyatt Morin grabbed the victory 14 seconds ahead of Drake’s Daniel Szawarzenski with a winning time of 55:22 after 12 miles of competition. San Rafael’s Jonathan Kaufman, Redwood High’s Ian Stowe, and Szawarzenski’s Drake teammate John Newcomb rounded out the podium.

Sixty-five Freshman Boys raced the Division 1 event.

Teamwork was the name of the game in the Freshman Boy’s Division 2 race, as Santa Cruz teammates Tobin Ortenblad and Jacob Albrecht triumphed over Tamalpais teammates Alex Howard and Skyler Taylor.  Ortenblad beat Albrecht by 50 seconds, finishing the 12-mile race in 50:43. Independent racer Jack Keane rounded out the final podium.

Fifty-two Freshman Boys raced the Division 2 event.

All told, 21 independent racers competed at Fort Ord. Drake High School had the most student athletes, 50, while the San Ramon Valley Club Team had 36. Berkeley High and the Nevada Union Miners brought 34 each, while the San Rafael Bulldogs and Folsom High brought 28 each.

“Some of the highlights of the event for me were watching all of the first year teams have a successful and fun race, and seeing all of the Freshman boys and girls race their first NorCal League race with such enthusiasm,” Hauswald said. NorCal League board vice president and Berkely High School assistant coach Austin McInerny echoed Hauswald.

“Riders cheered one another on during and after their own races,” McInerny said. “This type of support and friendliness is so rare in todays society and it is very refreshing to see it happen. Also, the sheer number of volunteers working to provide a safe experience for all was truly inspirational.”

Team Results

The Salinas High School Mountain Bike Team took top honors in the Division 1 Team category, ending the day with 4,011 points. Drake High School finished second overall with 3,928 points, just ahead of the San Rafael Bulldogs (3,713) and Berkeley High School (3,636).  Redwood High School sits fifth with 3,630 points.

In Division 2, the Trojans High School Mountain Bike Composite Team, which is a brand new team, finished in first place with 1,953 points, squeaking by the second-place Santa Cruz Chain Gang by a mere 9 points. The Branson Bulls Mountain Bike Club and Tamalpais High School each scored 1912 points to share third place, with the Novato Hornets finishing fifth with 1,894 points.

Click here for complete Team Results.

The second race of the 2010 NorCal League season takes place in the Folsom Lake State Recreation Area near Granite Bay, California on Sunday, March 21.

Click here for a slideshow of photos of the March 7 NorCal race #1 in Seaside, CA. All photos should be credited: Robert Lowe. Click here for a standard link of Robert Lowe’s photos.

Gary Boulanger, board president

National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA)