BERKELEY, Calif.-- Three of the eight junior cross country riders selected to represent the USA at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships, September 1-5 in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada, have come through the Northern California High School Cycling League program, and a fourth has come from the SoCal High School Cycling League.
The NorCal riders are: Sofia Hamilton, of Sir Francis Drake High; Will Curtis, of San Rafael High; and Tony Smith, of Marin Catholic. The fourth rider, Zach Valdez, of Hemet High, rides in the SoCal League.
Vanessa Hauswald, Executive Director of the NorCal High School Cycling League, said, "Everyone in the League is incredibly proud of Sofia, Will, Tony and Zach for this remarkable accomplishment. These riders are a great example of what one can accomplish through dedication, sportsmanship and hard work."
For Sofia, who earned a silver medal at the 2010 national championship, this is reward for a concerted effort spanning years. "My first race was possibly the most embarrassing, miserable athletic experience of my life, and I cried after it, but I have come a long way since then." Prior to the start of this year, she hadn’t seriously considered a national team slot. "Over the course of the season, as I kept doing better and better in my races and realized going to the world’s was a possibility, I started really working towards it."
Will Curtis who graduated this year from high school and won the 2010 California State Championship, finished fourth in the US national championship and rates this as an 11 on his 1-10 scale of great achievements. "It’s going to be an amazing experience," he says. "The high school league is where this all began. Without NorCal none of this would have been possible. I had an incredible time racing in the high school league and I’m bummed to be leaving, although this next step is looking pretty awesome so far!" Will says he has been hoping for the past three years to earn a place on the national team.
Tony Smith, the youngest of the trio, still has another year of high school to go, and this year finished third in the national championship. "Going somewhere I haven’t been and racing in an environment I’m not used to is something I am really looking forward to," he says. Like the others, Smith credits the high school cycling league. "Before getting involved in the league in my freshman year I was not a very confident racer. I felt pressured and nervous and never really allowed myself to do well and have fun. The league is fun for kids of all levels, and without this I don’t think I would have been able to continue racing."
Another factor that these four high school cyclists have in common is membership of a team that takes them outside the high school league. The Whole Athlete cycling team, run by Dario Frederick, who says, "With the NICA leagues we’re on the right track in providing the fundamentals and foundation to experience the sport of cycling and allow teams the opportunity to explore athletics, regardless of ability. With such a strong foundation, progress to the higher levels of the sport is smooth, and the transition these four riders have made between the NICA leagues and the Whole Athlete UCI World Cup Team is a clear example."
About the NorCal High School Cycling League
The NorCal High School Cycling League, founded in 2000, is a non-profit organization open to students from both public and private schools. The League exists by virtue of a range of fundraising activities as well as generous donors and sponsors including the founding sponsor of the SoCal League, Easton Foundations; the founding national sponsor, Specialized Bicycle Components, as well as SRAM, Trek Bicycles, Clif Bar and Co., Fox Racing Shox, Creation Engine, GU Sports, Mike's Bikes, Primal Wear, Santa Cruz Bicycles, Shimano, Touchstone Climbing Gyms, Mellow Johnny's, CamelBak, Dirt Rag, Feedback Sports and Mountain Bike Action. The League provides coaching and camaraderie to help students achieve both competitive and non-competitive cross-country mountain biking goals in a safe and enjoyable manner. Each season includes a fall Leader's Summit for coaches, winter riding camps, the five-race series, and a variety of summer camps. For more information on the League visit www.norcalmtb.org or call 510.524.5464.