The following article was written by St. Francis High School Cycling Coach Lee Bird.
The St. Francis High School mountain bike team competed in the fifth and final regular season event of the SoCal league series at Lake Arrowhead, CA earlier this month. The race was crucial for overall season awards and the “thin-air” of the mountains tested all of the riders. Once again, the Golden Knights rose to the challenge and finished strong in this race, and overall for the season.
The Lake Arrowhead course turned out to be very dry and dusty, unlike the muddy course that the riders faced last year. Besides the altitude and dust, the riders faced a tough 1.2 mile long fire road climb at the end of each 6-mile lap. This climb tested the resolve and strength of all of the racers.
In the Freshman Division 1 class, Golden Knight rider Austin Hamilton was looking to a secure a strong result and a podium position for the overall SoCal league results. Along with teammate Skyler Payne, Austin and Skyler worked hard to finish in 5th and 7th place, and secured the final two season overall podium positions in 6th and 7th place.
Philip Saulney and Remi Roth battled all day against each other and finished in 11th and 12th position. Remi proved that his fitness is improving with his best result of the season. Nick Bedford also had a strong result, placing 19th out of a deep field of 38 riders, with Nathaniel Blakely working hard for 24th. Overall, this was the best race for the freshmen who have improved all season long and are looking to peak at the State Championships on May 20th.
In the Sophomore Division 1 class, Daniel Balsam struggled through an illness to finish in 6th position and secure a very impressive 3rd place overall in the SoCal series. Hunter Nalley has steadily improved all season and finished in 19th, with Keenan Koch and Will Towne finishing in 21st and 22nd.
The Varsity and JV race had many interesting side-stories that the riders and coaches were trying to manage all day long. In the JV race, Sean Bird needed to finish ahead of two other riders that he had battled against all season to secure a 3rd place overall result for the season. Sean managed his race to perfection and finished in 3rd place, securing 3rd overall for the season.
Racing in his final SoCal league race, JV racer Cameron Aubert had his best result in his 4 seasons on the team to finish in 14th, with Connor Haas and Scott Marshall close behind in 17th and 19th. Matt Kubly persevered through another race filled with mechanical problems, losing 10 minutes to bike repairs, to battle back for 21st position. After crashing hard during practice the day before the race, Steven Ayoob worked through the pain of his injuries to finish in 25th.
Like Daniel Balsam in the sophomore race, Varsity racer Christian Breitschwerdt struggled with illness but finished in 26th. The nail-biter of the day in the Varsity race was all about Matt Misetich. Matt has raced in the SoCal league for 4 years, and needed a solid result to qualify for the State Championships. Matt was two positions behind the result he needed during his first three laps, but pulled out a great final lap to qualify for the State Championships with a finish in 23rd position.
At the end of the day, the Golden Knight mountain bike team had achieved many impressive results. For the race, there were two more podium finishes, and for the overall season result, there were four podium finishes. In all, the team had 16 podium results and 22 top-10 results for the season, more than their previous three seasons combined. Also, all 21 members of the team had qualified for the State Championships. Coach Bird commented “I am most proud that for the fourth straight season, we had no DNF’s”. “This is an incredible achievement and proof that the members of our team are special guys who will not give up.”
The Golden Knights head to Los Olivos to finish off the season and compete against high school teams from the NorCal league at the State Championships on May 20th.
The Golden Knights mountain bike team are very grateful for the support that they have received from the school and administration, along with their sponsors: Design Imports, Hollandays, VCA Arden Animal Hospital, Merchants Building Maintenance, Bell Helmets, Mountain Pine Shutters, Strategic Law Partners, Nu-Hope, Kevin Martin/UBS, Stratz & Company, Financial Guaranty Insurance Brokers, City National Bank, and JoBesh International.