Racers Contest Round Two of the SoCal League Season
Cruise the Keys, Keyesville, CA
By Phil Beckman, PB Creative
Lake Isabella, Calif. — The SoCal High School Cycling League headed north for the second event of the 2011 race season, to the Keyesville Recreation Area. It was the first time the SoCal League had visited this venue adjacent to the Sequoia National Forest, although many mountain bike enthusiasts are familiar with the place as it’s the home of the iconic, annual Keyesville Classic. A five-mile course awaited on rolling high desert terrain, featuring an abundance of singletrack trails, several shallow stream crossings, open cow pastures and a couple of testing fireroad climbs. Stormy weather had been a concern leading up to the event, but it left perfect traction and on raceday the skies were sunny, though cool and breezy. In the end, the student athletes as well as the coaches, families, volunteers and race officials, agreed that Keyesville had been more than worth the trip.
Matt Gunnell, the Executive Director of the SoCal League, summed it up by saying, “Over 200 racers came out even though we had epic weather in the leadup to the race. Though it was windy on race day, the racers were treated to one of the funnest, most scenic courses in SoCal League history, with magical dirt conditions. I would like to thank Steve Messer of the Concerned Off-Road Bicyclists Association (CORBA), one of the League’s trail advocacy partners, for working so hard to help bring a high school race to this fantastic location.
“With the four-race SoCal Series now halfway finished, we have several tight races developing in both the rider and team rankings. This shows that the depth and talent level of the competition in the League is rapidly maturing,” Gunnell concluded.
For the second event in a row, the Division 1 team competition (for schools with 12 or more riders) went to defending champion Hemet High School. According to Head Coach Pete Kirkham, “Our kids rode awesome in some wild and windy conditions. I’m just real proud of them. To get the point total we did today was beyond our wildest dreams.” Following very closely were Woodcrest Christian HS and Yucaipa HS, the day’s results reflecting the season standings.
The San Gabriel Valley Composite team took top honors in Division 2, and Head Coach Tom Lockhart stated, “We had the usual bit of good luck and bad, but overall the team did great and we’re happy with our day.” San Gabriel Valley now leads Ramona HS and Crescenta Valley Composite for the season, as they were second and third on the day as well.
Cody Phillips (San Gabriel Valley) made it two-for-two for 2011, winning by nearly five minutes at the end of four laps. Hemet High’s Brandon Kirkham finished second with a sore knee, while Alex Bagg (Yucaipa HS), in his first Varsity event after winning the Freshman class championship in 2010, was third.
As Phillips described his race, “I got the holeshot and was able to open a gap, and kept opening it throughout the race. I was pushing it the whole time. I kept waiting for Brandon to come up and make a run for it, but it didn’t happen. I’ve been caught before, so I wasn’t taking any chances. The course was awesome. It’s such a great place for riding in general. I come up here in the summer and for spring break.”
Star triathlete Hannah Rae Finchamp (San Gabriel Valley) was impressive in her first SoCal High School League appearance. This XTERRA World Champion in her age group led from the start and looked comfortable during all three laps to win by two minutes. Runner-up today was two-time and defending SoCal champ Tiana Row (Independent), with Vhasti Schmidt (Woodcrest Christian) in third. Row and Schmidt are now tied for the points lead in the class. Emma Klingaman (Hemet High) lurks only a few points back.
JV Boys Division 1
The top three in this race were closely matched, but at the end of three consistently fast laps it was Hemet High’s Joel Turner with the win and the series leader’s jersey. Nickolas Schultz (Independent) and Tyler O’Brien (Independent) rounded out the top three in a field of 23.
“I was battling with those two,” said Turner. “I had the lead but fell because I took a corner too fast and was passed by three riders. I was tempted to give up trying to catch back up, but kept pressing and eventually caught them. It’s hard to argue with first place—I had a great day.”
JV Boys Division 2
The most exciting finish of the day came in the 40-rider JV Boys D2 class, when Lucas Rowton (Crescenta Valley) and Jesse Rogers (Hart District) fought elbow-to-elbow in the last half mile to the finish line. Rowton barely outsprinted Rogers, while Joel Titius (Corona Composite) watched it happen only three seconds behind. Rowton is in the leader’s jersey, but these three, along with fourth-place finisher (and first round winner) Garrett Gaither (Ramona HS), are all extremely close in the standings.
The top two at Keyesville were the same as they were at the Vail Lake season opener. Ashley Duck (Ramona HS) took the 10-rider JV Girls class by a wide margin, followed in by McKenzie Melcher (Independent). Elizabeth Duchetta (San Gabriel Valley) completed the top three.
Sophomore Boys Division 1
Kyle Bosson (Yucaipa High) took command of this 21-rider class halfway into the first lap and never looked back. Round one winner Daniel Gay (Independent) finished second and retains the leader’s jersey, while Thomas King (Woodcrest Christian) was third.
“I got a good start, and when I attacked on the first lap nobody could hang with me so I just kept my pace under control and rode steady,” said Bosson. “I feel good about my result. I worked hard in practice and in school so I could have the grades to be able to race.”
Sophomore Boys Division 2
The “home team” at this race was Bike Bakersfield Composite, and their most successful rider here was Ivan Robles. Robles would stun the 15-rider field by over seven minutes, and now shares the leader’s jersey with Devin Arenas (San Gabriel Valley), who finished second. Third place this weekend went to Newport Beach Composite’s Aubrey Smentkowski.
Camila Fernandez (Eastlake HS) stood atop the Frosh/Soph Girls podium for the second straight time, just ahead of Morgan Zurborg (Woodcrest Christian). Kylie Butler (Palos Verdes Composite) was third in the field of 18.
“I had a fabulous day,” said Fernandez. “I had fun racing with Morgan and my teammates. I loved the course; this place is amazing. It was funner and more technical than I expected. It was a great experience overall.”
It’s important to note that for the first time in SoCal League history, every girl in all three classes finished their races.
Freshman Boys Division 1
The top spots in this class were the same as they were at round one, with Tanner Peery (Woodcrest Christian) leading Kenny Valdez (Hemet High) across the finish line. “I pushed real hard during the first part of the first lap to pull away from the other riders,” said Peery. “I really enjoyed this race; it was my favorite course ever. There was a great variety of riding: awesome fireroad climbs and great singletrack downhills. It was tough but enjoyable.” Ryan Warrell (Hemet High) rounded out the top three in a class of 29.
Freshman Boys Division 2
In a repeat of the first event of the series, Jarred Jordan (Murrieta Valley HS) was once again pushed hard by Kyle Skeen (Ramona HS) for the Freshman Boys D2 victory. Marshall Smith (Santa Barbara Composite) was third this time around in a field of 26.
As Jordan stated afterward, “I feel real good about the result today and am happy to have won the first two races of the series. The most important areas for me were the two climbs and having nice, smooth descents. Our team is in its first year and we were able to get four of our riders in the top ten. I look forward to race three up in Lake Arrowhead and working with my team to earn some more podium spots.”
Upcoming series events:
April 10, Power the Pinnacles, Lake Arrowhead, CA
May 1, SoCal Finals at Vail Lake, Temecula, CA
May 15, State Championships, Los Olivos, CA](http://www.socaldirt.org/events/races/)
About the SoCal High School Cycling League
The SoCal High School Cycling League was organized to provide a well-defined race season for youth 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 and is easiest way for youth to get involved in the challenging and exciting world of competitive cycling. The SoCal League was kick-started with a generous grant from the founding SoCal sponsor, Easton Foundations, and is also generously supported by founding national sponsor, Specialized Bicycle Components, as well as Easton Foundations, SRAM, Trek Bicycles, Clif Bar and Co., Primal Wear, Shimano, GU Sports, Kinetic, Maxxis, El Monte RV, Turner Bikes, Dr. John Gunnell Oncology, Adidas Eyewear, CamelBak, Crank Brothers, Creation Engine, Dirt Rag, Feedback Sports, Fort Lewis College, Fox Racing Shox, Mellow Johnny’s, Mountain Bike Action, QBP, Ritchey Designs, and WTB. For more information on the League, visit www.socaldirt.org or contact Matt Gunnell at firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel. (818) 415-1133.