High school mountain bike racing is experiencing explosive growth around the country and the sport is taking off here locally as well. Last year New York, Tennessee and Arizona started leagues and joined California, Colorado, Texas and Minnesota in providing opportunities for student-athletes to participate in the sport. There are now ten leagues nationwide.
The SoCal High Cycling League is starting its sixth season and is comprised of over fifty teams from public and private high schools. The league stretches from San Luis Obispo down to the border. They currently have 51 teams in the league; last year the league had 36 high school teams, up from 26 in 2012. They had 412 registered riders last year, seventy more than the previous year. “Last year we averaged 336 riders per race, “ said League Director Matt Gunnell, “This year we are expecting over 500.”
Also new this year, middle school teams can compete in their own division.
“We started a team at Great Oak High School last year with twelve riders,” said coach Rod Gisi, “ this year’s team is pushing thirty. I am excited that we also have three girls.” His daughter, Amanda, a cheerleader at Great Oak, has also joined the mountain bike racing team. Last season, freshman Evander Hughes placed second in SoCal Finals and took third in the California State Championships. “This year we have moved from Division 2 to Division 1 and look to compete at a higher level,” said Gisi.
In the SoCal Finals last year – also known as the Cow Pie Classic – held at the Dirt Club at Los Olivos, Emma Klingaman from Hemet High School finished first in Varsity Girls; Jarred Jordan from Murrieta Valley High School took the Varsity Boys race. Arcdelia Mercado and Hayleigh Kirkham from Hemet HS took second and third in the JV Girls division; Randy Graham from MVHS took third in JV Boys D1.
The California State Championships were held at Stafford Lake Park in Marin County (northern California) on May 19th. Jordan finished tenth in Frosh Boys D1. Randy Graham from Murrieta Valley took fifth in JV Boys D1. Alexis Marques from Hemet High earned a fourth place finish in JV Girls. Klingaman (Hemet) earned a fifth place finish in Varsity Girls.
The first race of the 2014 season is the “Beach to Boulders” raced at Lake Perris on February 23rd. Klingaman was third in Varsity Girls last year. Jordan was sixth in Varsity Boys.
The Vail Lake Challenge in Temecula is on March 9th. Murrieta Valley took second last year. Jordan was second in Varsity Boys in the twenty-mile race.