Nsek (221, Independent) attacked the JV Boys D1 lead group at the
halfway point and soloed to victory. --- Photo by Phil Beckman, PB
Lake Perris Was Not Your Typical Day at the Beach
March 27, 2013
2013 SoCal High School Mountain Bike Racing Series ROUND THREE
Beach to Boulders, Perris, CA
By Phil Beckman, PB Creative
Contact: Matt Gunnell, firstname.lastname@example.org, (818) 415-1133, www.socaldirt.org
Photo gallery with captions
— The third round of the 2013 SoCal High School Cycling League season
was like a fairy tail: Beauty and the Beast. The setting was Lake Perris
State Recreation Area, an 8,800-acre high desert playground created
with the 1973 construction of the southernmost reservoir in the 701-mile
California State Water Project.
The nerve center for this “Beach to Boulders” event was a lovely,
comfortable, scenic park on the lake’s northern tip. The 344 registered
student-athletes, 36 teams, their supporters, volunteers and staff on
hand were spoiled by the agreeability of this venue. Pleasant weather
just added to the affable atmosphere. It was a beauty.
On the other hand, the racecourse was a maximum heart rate test that
started on the sandy beach and then charged up a long stretch of thick,
spongy sod, swung onto a paved climb that went up and up and up into the
surrounding hills. And then onto a dirt climb and up some more before
turning onto a long, fast, singletrack trail that whooshed competitors
back down to the shoreline and around the beach to another demanding
slog up a grassy slope to the finish. It was a beast.
It was like nothing SoCal League participants had ever experienced.
Matt Gunnell, the Executive Director of the SoCal High School Cycling
League, explained afterward, "Racing at Lake Perris provided a unique
opportunity for the SoCal League to try something a little bit different
and incorporate some unique elements into high school mountain biking.
We had our race start in sand on the beach and the riders had the
opportunity to traverse the beach at least two times per lap. I gave the
coaches the heads up a few weeks back to 'train on riding in sand’ and
it appears many teams took the advice. This course favored powerful
riders and was not very technical. This may have played into the results
but, because mountain biking takes place on a variety of terrain in
varied conditions, this race will help define the best overall riders at
the end of the season."
Hemet coach Pete Kirkham fulfilled his promise to take a dip in the lake if the team won. --- Photo by Phil Beckman, PB Creative
Three-time and defending Division 1 team champion Hemet High School
scored its first victory of the season at Lake Perris. Moments later,
Head Coach Pete Kirkham was forced to jump in the lake. “I told the team
this week that if they could refocus and step up to win again, I’d go
for a swim,” he said. “They responded very well and did a really good
job today. Our result today is a product of what they did after we
missed the podium for the first time ever at the last race. We couldn’t
It was a tight fight, as Woodcrest Christian High School and Yucaipa
High School finished second and third overall in D1 by the slimmest of
margins. In the season standings, Yucaipa still leads the way with Hemet
moving to second and Woodcrest third.
Crescenta Valley High School maintained its position at the top of
the Division 2 standings (for teams with 11 or fewer riders) by claiming
its second win of the year. Head Coach Jim Rowton was a little choked
up when he said quietly: “There’s no secret to it. You go out and work
hard and hope the kids can perform up to their ability. I try to keep
them focused on how much work it takes to be a good team and how
everybody is a critical and integral part of that.”
South Orange County Composite placed second on the day. A new squad
for 2013 — El Toro High School — enjoyed its first SoCal League podium
in third. In series points after three of five events (all count in team
competition), Crescenta leads South OC and Corona del Mar High School.
Skeen leads the eventual top 3 Varsity Boys podium off the beach part
way through the race. --- Photo by Phil Beckman, PB Creative
Christian Husband (Independent) made his first high school mountain
bike appearance a memorable one by surging away from breakaway partner
Sean Bird (St. Francis) within sight of the finish line to win by seven
seconds. This bold series debut was even more remarkable by the fact
that Husband had only hours before completed a prominent three-day road
stage race, finishing fifth overall against a National-level Junior
“Someone recommended I try high school mountain bike racing,” Husband
explained. “I plan to do as many of these as I can if they don’t
conflict with my road program. I do mountain biking for fun and
training. The scene here is awesome and the competition is great
compared to other race series. The environment is super cool.”
Runner-up Bird was thrilled with his best finish in his first season
in the Varsity class. He had played a key role in splitting up a strong
group that had formed by the halfway point of the four-lap, 20-mile race
and then helped whittle it down a bit more on the last climb of the
last lap. Only Husband was on his wheel as they came off the descent and
began the long, flat stretch along the beach heading toward the finish.
As Bird picks up the plot, “Christian started playing games and I
realized at that point I needed to think more about overall season
points. The other guys were so close I didn’t really have a choice — I
had to keep pulling. I knew he would probably have a better kick at the
end anyway. It’s definitely very exciting. Overall it was a great race.”
Sammy Bello (Independent) also had the best ride of his rookie
Varsity season for third, while Alex Bagg (Yucaipa) and Kyle Skeen
(Ramona) bookended the podium.
Jarred Jordan (Murrieta) now leads the standings on the consistency
of a sixth-place finish (and the absence of former leader Shane
Skelton). Bagg, Bello, Bird and Garrett Gaither (Ramona) are right on
Felenyi hit the second step on the podium for the first time in her
rookie Varsity season. --- Photo by Phil Beckman, PB Creative
To no one’s surprise, Hannah Rae Finchamp (Maranatha) dominated
Varsity Girls again despite competing in a triathlon in Lake Havasu the
day before (she earned top overall female honors). Not even a mechanical
issue could slow her down. She explained that, “I was trying to pass a
JV rider and when she moved over she crashed. I am so sorry to whoever
that was but she hit my bike and from then on my chain was skipping and I
didn’t have my biggest gear. But that’s the exciting part of mountain
biking; you never know what to expect.” Finchamp will be spending her
spring break on a trip with schoolmates to Galapagos Island.
Reka Felenyi (Rim of the World) has had a rough-and-tumble series so
far, but it all came together for her at Lake Perris with a strong
second place. “I was surprised,” she exclaimed. “I was like, ‘I don’t
know what’s happening.’ I can’t believe I actually got second. I want to
thank my parents and coach for training me and making me believe I
won’t fall in every race.”
Emma Klingaman (Hemet), Morgan Zurborg (Woodcrest) and Megan Bradley
(Rim of the World) rounded out the top five at Beach to Boulders. In
season points, Finchamp leads Klingaman, Zurborg, Bradley and Dalma
Felenyi (Rim of the World).
D2 JV Boys has come down to a tight 3 way battle at the end of every race! --- Photo by Phil Beckman, PB Creative
Ema Suarez (Independent) has swept the season so far after again
topping JV Girls without drama. “I really liked this race. The course
was pretty easy and in my opinion it favored those who do road racing. I
felt pretty strong even though the sand kind of slowed me down. Thanks
to my coaches and family and to the SoCal League for making this
Hemet teammates and best friends Hayleigh Kirkham and Alexis Marques
rode together the entire two laps and finished just two seconds apart
for second and third, respectively.
These results mirror the current point standings: Suarez, Kirkham, Marques.
JV Boys Division 1
Imeh Nsek (Independent) chose the steepest section of the course to
make his move against a leading group of seven on the second of three
laps in this class and was gone. He monitored his pace to perfection on
this warm afternoon and soloed in with over a minute’s cushion.
Woodcrest teammates Michael Lansing and Brian Messner sprinted for
second, with Lansing getting the nod.
“I slowed it down at the beginning of the third lap so I didn’t die on the last hill, and no one got back,” said the winner.
Nsek now has sole possession of the Leader Jersey, with Lansing and Messner chasing for the championship.
JV Boys Division 2
The largest class of the day (64 riders) was also one of the most
exciting. The top three were separated in the results by less than seven
seconds. Emerging victorious for the eighth time in a row (going back
to his Freshman 2012 season) was James Pflughaupt (Corona del Mar). Sean
Bell (El Toro) and Daniel Johnson (South OC) went 2-3, the same order
these riders find themselves in the standings.
According to Pflughaupt, “It was a tough race; really hot. The last
climb was absolutely brutal. I attacked in the feed zone and got a bit
of a gap and then just flew through the sand. It was an interesting
Geoffrey Bartz got his first ever high school win at Lake Perris. --- Photo by Phil Beckman, PB Creative
Despite a shaky start, Christina Mann (Yucaipa) made it a three-peat
in 2013. As she reported, “At the start I could not get clipped in and
everybody passed me. But when you go through the soft sand and make the
bend to the right I saw everyone drifting all the way to the left. There
was this huge open space for me on the right so I was like, ‘Hey,
thanks,’ and cruised on through.”
She blitzed the first lap and pulled away to win convincingly ahead
of Kaitlin Washburn (Eastlake) and Madison Brown (Woodcrest).
Mann extended her points lead over Washburn and Lauren Small, who was fourth at Lake Perris.
Sophomore Boys Division 1
Geoffrey Bartz (Independent) rode three tactically savvy laps to
snare his first victory in high school mountain bike racing. “I didn’t
do a lot of pulling on the road and the climbs. I just saved myself for
the last lap. I broke away at the feed zone, only about a tenth of a
mile from the finish,” he explained.
Bartz admitted that Dillon Gamache (Yucaipa) and Miles Crawford
(Independent) did the bulk of the work within their leading group of
three, and that’s the way they finished.
Gamache took home a nice consolation prize in the form of this
class’s Leader Jersey. Hayden Ramsay (Yucaipa) was fifth at Lake Perris
and dropped to second in the standings, with Bartz moving up to third.
Sophomore Boys Division 2
First-round winner Alexander Deroche (Crescenta) was back on top
after recovering from an illness that affected him at the last event two
weeks prior (he still finished second). “Resting for a couple of weeks
paid off,” he said. “The course suited me well. It seemed easy during
practice but was much harder in the race.”
Parker Maccianti (Santa Ynez) rolled in for second, with round two
winner Caden Gruber (Corona del Mar) in third. In the standings Deroche
is leading Gruber and Maccianti. An individual rider’s best four of five
races count for final championship awards.
Freshmen girls pushing hard at the start. --- Photo by Phil Beckman, PB Creative
Hannah Eckvahl (San Gabriel Valley) jumped out to a quick lead and
appeared strong and confident enough to score her third straight win.
But what was this? One rider was not being dropped! It turned out to be
Brenna Pratt (Crescenta Valley) having the ride of her life.
“I basically got pulled around by Hannah,” said Pratt. “I just tried
my hardest to stay with her and in the last turn was able to get around
and sprint ahead. It was a lot of fun.” This was the first Girls win
ever for Crescenta Valleyt.
How’s that for a fairy tale ending?
Hannah Binder (Tustin) filled out the top three.
Eckvahl is still looking comfortable in the Leader Jersey, with Pratt
moving up to second. Rebecca Israel (Yucaipa) is now third.
Freshman Boys Division 1
Patrick Liddy (Independent) had a breakout day with his first win (in
only his fourth mountain bike race). He was part of a leading group of
four at the end of the first lap, then made a successful move on the
second lap’s climb to create a gap he would hold to the finish. “We were
having a fun time on that first lap, passing each other and talking.
After my attack I just tried to keep it smooth. I was feeling great
today after being sick coming into this.”
Jacob Jordan (Murietta) finished second by half a minute but retains
the Leader Jersey. Third on the day was Bo Knickman (Newbury Park).
Liddy holds second in points, with Kyle Legge (Newbury Park) — fourth in
this event — maintaining third in the standings.
Freshman Boys Division 2
Jack Tucker (Corona del Mar) had this field covered yet again for his
third straight triumph. When asked what the key had been for this
latest win, he replied, “I’m not sure. I’m not feeling too great,
actually. I did two days of the San Dimas Stage Race this weekend and I
was pretty sick before that. I guess it was just a matter of riding
smart and not going hard until it mattered.”
Evander Hughes (Great Oak) and Evan Williams (Big Bear) rounded out
the top three. In the standings it’s Tucker in front of Hughes and
Mikael Rodgers (South OC), who was fifth at Lake Perris.
April 3: SoCal premier of "Singletrack High" at Oakley HQ, Foothill Ranch
April 14: Cruise the Keys, Keyesville Special Recreation Management Area, Lake Isabella
April 22: "Singletrack High" screening at Tiger! Tiger"
May 5: Cow Pie Classic, SG Dirt Club, Los Olivos
May 19: State Championships, Stafford Lake Park, Marin County
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 the
easiest way for youth to get involved in the challenging and exciting
world of competitive cycling. The League exists by virtue of a range of
fundraising activities, as well as generous donors, and League sponsors
including Jeep, Felt Bicycles founding national sponsor Specialized Bicycle Components; as well as establishing sponsors Easton Foundations, SRAM, and Trek Bicycles; major sponsors Sho-Air,
JEEP, Clif Bar and Company, Primal Wear, QBP, Simplicity Bank, Kayo
Clothing, Rock N' Road Cyclery, Turner Bikes, Jax Bicycle Center,
CamelBak, GU Sports, Kinetic, Maxxis, Orange Seal Cycling, Feedback
Sports, Ft. Lewis College, Fox Racing Shox, and Ritchey Designs; and media partners Mountain Bike Action, Dirt Rag, and Cyclingnews. For more information on the League, visit www.socaldirt.org or contact Matt Gunnell at email@example.com or (818) 415-1133.