Race #4 | NevadCa Championships

Truckee, CA
October 14th, 2018

A champion, defined by the Webster Dictionary, is “a person who has defeated or surpassed all rivals in a competition, a winner.”  I prefer the Urban Dictionary definition of a champion as “someone who commits an act of the following: extreme courage or extreme awesomeness; one who is worthy of positive recognition.”

Nevada Interscholastic Cycling League is full of such spirits: riders with infinite willingness to put all they have into each and every pedal. You will never see so much determination and passion filtered into a program as you do when you experience an NICA event.  “Champion essentially means to excel. Fast or slow on a bike, leader on a team or part of a team, or advocate in the community, those are the types of champions that I want to promote and support. I intentionally call each race an ‘event’ because I don’t want to just put on races, these events are experiences.  I try to have each event at an area in which whether you are a rider, or a spectator, everyone can participate in some way,” stated the NICL President and League Director, Doug Bedient.

The 2018 Nevada Interscholastic Cycling MTB Championship took place at the Tahoe Donner Alder Creek Adventure Center. The Tahoe Donner Association opened up their community trails in a grand show of support for youth cycling and the middle and high school student athletes of our League.  The Café was bustling with excitement, shopping, football on the big screens, and the most delicious food!

All participants competed on the same course which was approximately 4.1 miles in length with 500’ of climbing per lap.  Depending on the group, riders raced anywhere from 4.1 to 20.5 miles. As start times approached, the smiling faces and busy chatter of the competitors quickly shift to quiet stares and last minute adjustments of shoes, gloves, helmets and water bottles.  Then an amazing thing happened. It was like the subconscious mind took over each body, all doubts and nerves were seemingly pushed aside and the riders were ready to hammer the track as if a saber tooth tiger was chasing them, constantly at their heels. “When the riders fill their spots, it seems that excitement fills their minds.  They are ready, while I am much more worried than they are,” stated Teri Thomsen, a Damonte Ranch coach. “Some kids are racers, while others are just out there to have fun. My job as a coach is make sure that they all enjoy the ride.” Then, silence. A moment of calm and peace was present. Parents, coaches, spectators and volunteers all positioned themselves to support the final ride of the season.  Without delay, the countdown began and silence gave way to shrieking voices, cow bells and tires shredding across the trail.

The Championship event was full of excitement, with close finishes, come-backs, incredible times on laps and of course, crashes.

The Varsity and JV Girls kicked off the day with sweeping victories from Emma Herschbach, Galena High School, who secured her 1st place spot in both the final event and the overalls, as did JV Hayden McJunkin from Sugar Bowl Academy.  Throughout the year, Hayden proved to be a competitor that pushed lap times to new levels. Her drive, determination and sheer athleticism did not fail to show, as she secured the fastest girl’s lap time of 19:34 on this course.  Being in only 9th grade, she will definitely be a force to be reckoned with in the upcoming seasons!  Truckee’s Ciara Wing was much more prepared mentally and physically this time, “I felt much better at the start.  I knew I had to practice a lot more, and I did. I did this course so many times so that I would know where to pass and that I really had to get ahead on the downhill.  Even though I got 3rd place, we are all champions.  We are modest, we support one another on all teams and encourage one another.  Hayden McJunkin really is the image of what a winner should be, she’s a champion and she still kicks your butt.”  JV boys 9th grade competitor Matt Seline of Truckee High School also crossed the finish line a minute and a half ahead.  He and Hayden both leave minds swirling, anxiously anticipating next year’s performances!

The Varsity Boy’s season was intense, with the top 5 boys riding in a pack throughout the first four laps of most of the events this season making it the most fierce competition we’ve seen amongst the athletes.  The Championship Event proved to hold true to that performance, with lap times separated by only one tenth of a second. Jackson Miers of Galena swept the season with first place throughout, while his teammate Jason Muff and Wooster High’s Drew Small battled for second place.  Justin Kinser’s (Alta Alpina) and Tobin Mcrae’s (Carson) relentless efforts had them creeping onto the podium as well in various events. Jason and Drew finished with an overall score that had them tied for 2nd place.

Middle School girl Sawyer Villanueva from Alta Alpina Composite had the most gnarly crash of the day.  “I took a bad digger. I hit a rock and my weight was back when I was going over a patch of rocks. I flew off by bike but got right back up.  There’s no time to be hurt in a championship.” She was covered in dirt and had gashes that were bleeding out down her leg. Proving the power of mental toughness, she indeed did not let the pain take over and finished 1st to sweep the series’  overalls. Team mate Matteus Sokulsky inched ahead of Carson’s Robert Berger in the final seconds of the Advanced Middle School Boys race, while Alta Alpina’s  Joshua Bodenstein came back from a loss at Mammoth to take his heat by an impressive 30 second lead in the Middle School Boys class and secure 1st place overall, with Trevor Purdy from Truckee taking 2nd!  “I knew I wasn’t going to let anyone catch me.  When I hit the big hill, I just kept my mind focused and told myself to pedal faster.  I believed that I could get ahead then,” stated Josh, “I love to ride. It’s so much fun.”

“I believe in you,” the gist of every coach’s sentiment prior to releasing their riders to the loading zone.  Alta Alpina rider Jack Bray sat on his bike a bit nervous prior to being called to the start line. His coach Andrew was right there telling him, “Break it down into pieces.  You got this. You are a solid. I believe in you.” It dawned on me that this sport revolves around just that- people all around collaborating to provide an environment of belief in every single pedaling human: I believe that ordinary children can do extraordinary things; and, I believe that triumph and victory come in all forms, from finishing a race, to falling and getting up, to taking a spot on the podium.  The faith within each competitor encompasses one thing: someone, somewhere believed in them. The power of those words and the actions that follow transform each mind and leaves a lasting impression in all walks of life. At some point the spoken words, “I believe in you,” becomes a real, tangible understanding within each of these competitor’s soul. When a mind truly believes, there is no limit to what one can accomplish.

Until next Year - Happy Trails!

Complete event results of all the amazing athletes who participated in the “Roundup” can be found at https://my6.raceresult.com/107195/

Complete photo documentation of the event provided by student photographer Owen Swall can be found here – https://www.flickr.com/photos/146749774@N04/