2012 SoCal High School Mountain Bike Racing Series ROUND THREE —
Cruise the Keys, Keyesville, CA
By Phil Beckman, PB Creative
Lake Isabella, Calif. — The third round of the 2012 SoCal High School Cycling League mountain bike racing series was a day filled with drama—on the course as usual, but also in the sky above. The forecast in the week leading up to the “Cruise the Keys” event near the Sequoia National Forest had been dire: winter storm warnings; heavy rain; high winds; cool temperatures; possibly snow. Concerned eyes were being continually cast toward building clouds throughout the day of the event. Thankfully, the weather sidestepped the Keyesville Recreation Area until most of the racing had been completed. The only storm-related damage was to the awards ceremony, which for the first time had to be postponed due to the rapidly deteriorating conditions.
The most concerned and ultimately relieved person on site may have been Matt Gunnell, the Executive Director of the SoCal League. “With the winter storm warning pending most of the week, I was pleased we had over 250 racers even though many people chose to stay home,” he said afterward. “As a race director it’s always tough to try to make the correct call with the weather. In this case, the storm forecast didn’t look like it was going to make conditions unsafe nor the course unrideable, so we raced. The first two waves of racers were treated to ideal racing conditions while the Varsity and JV Boys, racing last, endured more challenging conditions.”
The Division 1 (for clubs with 12 or more riders) team victory at Keyesville went to the 2011 champion Hemet High Bulldogs for the second race in a row. Runner-up this weekend was main rival Woodcrest Christian High School, with Rim of the World High School moving up into third.
According to Hemet Head Coach Pete Kirkham, “Similar to the last race, a lot of the same kids stepped up again with some ‘new’ ones raising their game also. Our two freshman boys are just getting stronger. Woodcrest is doing an amazing job this year of pushing our team to new heights and we applaud them for that. The course and venue were stellar once again with Matt G. and his crew staging another amazing event. Now if they could just control the weather better!”
Hemet extended its series points lead over Woodcrest, with Yucaipa High School holding onto third after three of five events.
Also claiming back-to-back team wins was Redlands Composite in Division 2. This first-year team topped San Gabriel Valley Composite, with South Orange County Composite rounding out the top three.
Woody Woodruff was Head Coach for Redlands at Keyesville, and as he described the team’s day, “It went really well. We had specific plans for this race, and our riders carried them out. Tactics came into play here more than any race for us so far.”
Redlands now leads the season Division 2 standings, followed by San Gabriel Valley and South Orange County.
Round one winner Shane Skelton (Independent) returned to the series and put in a dominating performance, although Jesse Rogers (Independent) recorded a blazing fourth and final 5.5-mile lap to keep Skelton honest. Lucas Rowton (Crescenta Valley) and Wyatt Myers (Victor Valley Composite) dueled for third, with Rowton getting the edge in a sprint.
“Going into Keyesville I was just coming off of being sick so I didn’t know how my body would react,” said Skelton. “I was staged way in the back at the start since I missed the last race. I was pretty aggressive off the line because I wanted to get up to the leaders as soon as possible and not be in any crashes.?About midway through the first lap I was feeling good, and up front it was me, Cody Phillips, Jesse Rogers and Lucas Rowton. I put an attack in on a climb and put my head down. On the second lap I had a two-minute gap and maintained that for almost the rest of the race. I had a smooth and solid race. Thankfully the rain didn’t start dumping on us until the very end and the course held up pretty nicely. It was an awesome race, fun course and awesome scenery.?Can’t wait till the next one. The SoCal League always gets it done!”
A total of 29 riders took the start, but not making the finish due to a mechanical problem was defending champion Cody Phillips (San Gabriel Valley).
With his second-place finish, the consistently quick Rogers now finds himself in the leader jersey, with Joel Titius (Corona Composite), who was sixth at Keyesville, in second in the points. Myers is now third.
Building on a perfect season is Hannah Rae Finchamp (San Gabriel Valley), winning her third in a row with a convincing gap. As she discussed later, “Keyesville is such a great location to have a mountain bike race. The course is fantastic, bringing together some steep climbs with fast descents through single- and double-track. I got out fast and was able to lead from the beginning, clearing all the cows from the course as I attempted to widen a gap. Because this course had so much variety it was important to take on each section with a different frame of mind and be ready to push through each uphill and be loose through each downhill. I was extremely pleased to see that my lap times were faster this year than they were last year, showing for me, as well as all the girls out there, that mountain biking is getting more and more competitive and we are creating a much stronger women’s field for the future.”
Putting in her best ride to date, McKenzie Melcher (Redlands) came out on top of a race-long battle with Emma Klingaman (Hemet) for second place. According to Melcher, “I started out the race in the middle of the pack and slowly made my way to the third place position, then battled it out with Emma for second. Emma was never too far behind. I feel I had a successful race because I kept my goals of keeping the bike rubber-side down, not giving up, and more importantly, having fun! I’m really looking forward to the next race at Vail Lake.”
Finchamp now enjoys a comfortable lead in series points, while Klingaman holds onto second with Melcher third. A rider’s best four of five events count in the final season standings.
JV Boys Division 1
Jarred Jordan (Murrieta Valley) charged hard from start to finish and claimed this class handily to extend his winning streak to three. An outstanding showing by Sean Bird (St. Francis) gave him the runner-up slot, with Tanner Peery (Woodcrest) finishing third.
“I felt very good about my race,” said Jordan. “Right off the start I built a good gap and took off. On my second lap I kept an easy pace, not going too hard, and third lap I was keeping the same pace. I loved the course; the dirt was perfect and the rain gave it more of an epic feel. Before this race I rested a lot and had fresh legs.”
In the point standings, Jordan is a solid first, trailed by Peery and Bird.
JV Boys Division 2
The results in this class at Keyesville was a carbon copy from the prior round in Yucaipa, as Kyle Skeen (Ramona) once again pulled a disappearing act in front of Spencer Rathcamp (Hart Composite) and teammate Aaron Argueta.
Likewise, the season standings for JV Boys Division 2 are also a duplicate, from the last round and this day: Skeen, Rathcamp, Argueta.
After finishing second in the first two rounds of the series, Maddie Melcher (Redlands) took the next step and claimed her first victory. It was apparently far from easy: “An incredibly strong and determined rider, Reka Felenyi, and I were switching places throughout the whole race, until about three-fourths into the second [final] lap. I feel that the strategic help from my coaches, encouragement from my teammates, and support from my family was key to doing my best.”
Reka Felenyi and her twin sister and Rim of the World teammate, Dalma, rounded out the top three. They had been sharing the leader jersey, but that now moves to the shoulders of Melcher.
Sophomore Boys Division 1
Michael Gossett (Murrieta) captured his first win of the season with three strong laps and in the process donned the leader jersey for the class. Finishing second and third were Daniel Balsam (St. Francis) and Evan Cobb (Crescenta Valley), respectively, positions which reflect their series standings as well.
“The entire race went really well,” said Gossett. “I lead the whole race but [Balsam} wasn’t too far behind. It’s good to know my training is working. I am definitely stoked and am going to push even harder the next race.”
Sophomore Boys Division 2
The stylish Sammy Bello (Independent) showed why he’s wearing the leader jersey with another untroubled class win. “I felt really good about my result,” he said. “I am trying to get better every race, and I think I am. The key today was getting the holeshot and just trying to maintain the same pace as the first lap throughout the whole race. The course was by far the best one that I have raced. Overall my day was awesome.”
Jeremy Call (Royal High School) had another good ride for second, with Edgar Almarguier (Channel Islands) rolling in for third.
In the standings, it’s Bello leading Call and Jose Fuentes (Redlands), who was fourth today.
It’s a hat trick for Megan Bradley (Rim of the World), as she scored her third win of the season ahead of teammate Nicole Jewell. Lauren Allen (Eastlake High School) claimed third on the day.
Bradley said, “I feel vey pleased with my result as I was feeling sick and still came in three minutes ahead. I was leading from the start line to the finish line and kept a steady speed the whole time. I think the most important aspect is to lead at the start line.”
The top three in this class at Keyesville now hold the top three spots in the standings.
Freshman Boys Division 1
This was again the largest field of the day with 38 competitors, and once again it was Michael Lansing (Woodcrest) topping the results sheet. Zachary Baker (Hemet) kept it close, but crossed the finish line 12 seconds adrift. Finishing third was Adam Rowton (Crescenta Valley).
For the series, it’s Lansing leading Rowton and Micah Swinhart (Woodcrest), who placed fourth at Keyesville.
Freshman Boys Division 2
James Pflughaupt is yet another rider who is putting a stamp of authority on a class. The Corona del Mar rider made it three straight by a wide margin, gapping Redlands teammates Bradley Breyer and Andrew Wilber. These three hold those places in the season standings as well.
“I put the most amount of effort I could into the race so I am pleased with the result,” Pflughaupt reported. “I led after the first 200 meters and kept it. The most important moments for me were being able to pass people on the uphill so I didn’t lose too much time. This course was fun and a little more challenging than the previous two. The weather was perfect for racing until the rain began. The location was pretty cool and worth the drive.”
It was a bittersweet race for Freshman Girls winner Hayleigh Kirkham (Hemet). She captured her first victory, but at the expense of teammate and friend Alexis Marques. Marques had won the first two rounds and was well in front at Keyesville when she took a spill and partially deflated a tire just a half mile from the finish. Kirkham passed before Marques could regroup, although Marques was able to run her bike the rest of the way and still finish second. Back at the Hemet High tent, Kirkham was heard apologizing to Marques.
As Kirkham, the daughter of the coach, said later, “For the past three races I have been right behind my fellow teammate and best friend Lexy Marques.?Unfortunately for Lexy, her crashing gave me the opportunity to get ahead and win the race. I’m pretty stoked, especially since Lexy was able to get second and another teammate, Arcelia Mercado, got third.”
The consolation for Marques is that she remains in the leader jersey, while Kirkham and Danielle Emter (South Orange County) round out the top three in the standings.
Upcoming series events:
April 15, Victory at Vail, Temecula, CA
May 6, Power the Pinnacles, Lake Arrowhead, CA (SoCal series final)
May 20, State Championships, Los Olivos, CA