The weekend of Feb. 23 and 24, Tehachapi mountain bike team had their first cross-country mountain bike race of the season. Thirty-four Tehachapi students went head to head against 1,057 riders from Southern California and brought home a third-place medal along with many top finishes.

Lake Perris opened the NICA 2019 series. Located in Riverside County between Moreno Valley and Perris, this beautiful site greeted our team with 60 degree weather, green rolling hills and blue skies. Nestled in the greenery was lake Perris, a reservoir that sits just above 1,500 feet.

The weekend’s course cut through the rolling hills and was described by a student as “fast and flowy.” Recent rains gave traction to most of the trail, but part of the course stretched across a loose and sandy beach that lined the lakeside.

Saturday started with the middle school. Sixteen junior high students raced from Tehachapi. For some, it was their second or third season, but for 12 riders this was the first time lining up at the start. All rode well and will be sure to climb in finishing places as the season continues. Below is a list of middle school riders and their finishing place.

Girls Level 2, Grade 6-8

Solai Smith, 18th

Amanda Edwards, 21st

Girls Level 1, Grade 6-8

Grace Wood, 25th

Pearl Smith, 36th

Zoey Daniels, 48th

Boys Level 3, Grade 7/8

Conner Smith, 51st

Boys Level 2, Grade 8

Nolan Wood, 12th

Boys level 2, Grade 6/7

Greyson Schaeffer, 22nd

Jett Hensler, 18th

Boys Level 1, Grade 7

Ryan Saltzman, 7th

Carter Lee, 42nd

Matthew Buckroff, 37th

Boys level 1 Grade 6

Ayden Montgomery, 61st

Isaiah Belles, 60th

Jack Clark, 28th

Spencer Theriault, 31st

Sunday kicked it up with the high school league. Many of these riders are not just the top in California, they are also the fastest in the nation. One cannot help to be in awe over the athleticism and speed as they flow through a cheering crowd. Seventeen high school students represented Tehachapi; for five of them, this was their first mountain bike race. The following are the names and finishing places.

JV Boys

Tony Horn, 55th

Greg Chambers, 56th

Jack Sather, 40th

Joshua Edwards, 59th

Zach Daffern, 38th

Ryan Bishop, 3rd

Varsity Girls

Faith Hopkins, 16th

JV Girls

Sophia Schaeffer, 7th

Gracie Knowlton, 11th

Maghen Saltzman, 12th

Freshman Girls

Emily Heier, 17th

Grace Garrett, 14th

JV Boys

Josiah Hopkins, 10th

Ethan Tenderholt, 23rd

Caleb Owens, 19th

Lou Smith, 22nd

Alex Gohr, 28th

Austin Garrett, 21st

Our top finisher this weekend was JV rider Ryan Bishop. Racing against 60 other riders from Southern California, Bishop came in third, earning him a spot on the podium. Bishop is from Bakersfield and attends Bakersfield Christian High School. Last year he rode one NICA race as an independent rider.

“We tried to start a team in Bakersfield, but just couldn’t get it going,” Said Todd, Bishop's father. This year he decided to joined the Tehachapi team while his father has signed up as a coach.

Like many sports, mountain bike racing is high-energy and fast paced. Students train together as a team, but because it is an individual sport, it allows one to join at level of riding. It isn’t uncommon to have a last-place finisher one year finish top 10 or even stand on the podium a year or two later.

For more information on the NICA mountain bike league, visit Socaldirt.org. The next race will be held at Vail Lake resort, March 16 and 17. If you’d like to watch highlights or have hourly updates and photos, visit the team's Facebook page on the race dates at Tehachapi MTB. We will be sure to keep you updated.

April Wood is a parent and coach with the team.