More than 2,500 people poured into the gates at Lehigh Cement this weekend as Tehachapi proudly hosted its first California State Championship for mountain bike racing.
From February to May, the SoCal league competed in a series of four races. The top finishers from each division earned a spot to battle it out against the fastest riders in Northern California (NorCal). Sixteen Tehachapi students qualified for the races this weekend and regardless of the rain and cold weather, Tehachapi finished strong.
California is known to be one of the most competitive states in mountain bike racing. Alumni Kate Courtney, a California State champion from the NorCal league, is currently the UCI World Champion and a potential for America’s next Olympic competitor in the 2020 games. Many California state champions continue to compete on a professional level. Tehachapi's mountain bike team has had its moments of victories with its celebration of three state champions in the past few years.
Tehachapi’s rain, wind and cold temperatures made this championship a memorable one. A storm shed its water over the venue for most of Saturday evening and Sunday morning, creating muddy roadways and trails. The race events were pushed back by one hour. Rain continued throughout the day, but the races went on. Mud is not a desirable feature for a cross-country trail race, but it was clear by the muddy smiles and bike kits that it added a bit of excitement.
Sunday morning hundreds of kids dressed in bike kits and layers took on the mountain.
The following are the results of California’s 2019 State Champions in each division and the school or city they represent.
Freshman A- William Wolfe of North Orange County Composite, SoCal
Freshman B- Travis Boucher of Placer High, NorCal
Junior Varsity Boys A- Ethan Villaneda of Corona, SoCal
Junior Varsity Boys B- Cameron Dominguez of Yucaipa, SoCal
Varsity Boys- Tyedman Newman, independent rider, SoCal
Freshman Girls- Vaila Heinemann of Redwood High, NorCal
Junior Varsity Girls- Isabella Heinemann of Redwood High, NorCal
Varsity Girls- Gabrielle Richardson of South Orange County Composite, SoCal
This year Tehachapi’s riders did well, but did not take the tittle of state champion. Their top finisher of the day was Junior Varsity Caleb Owens, finishing 11th out of 88 riders. This is Owens' last year racing with NICA, and based on the mud-covered smile, it was a memorable one.
As the season closes, the Tehachapi team will be losing three of its much-loved members as they move on to open a new chapter in their lives. All would agree that joining the team and racing with NICA has had a large impact on them.
Faith Hopkins, a graduating senior from Heritage Oak Christian School, has accepted a mountain bike scholarship offered to her by Milligan College in Tennessee She has enjoyed racing, camping and the friendships she made while on the team but looks forward to this new season. While away, she still plans to show support for GRIT (Girls Riding Together), a group that seeks to encourage more girls on bikes.
Ryann Bishop is another graduating senior who agrees that joining the team and racing has had a positive impact on his life. He never knew there were so many kids his age who loved riding.
“I grew up having my dad and his buddies to ride with, so going up to Tehachapi and having so many people my age that like to ride was really awesome. It was an eye-opening experience. You can go hang out with your buddy and say let’s get a ride in," said Bishop, who will be attending Fort Lewis in Durango, Colo. On top of it being a desirable school, having trail heads right outside of his dorm was a major factor in his decision. Bishop hopes to join his college bike team and continue racing.
Mountain bike season has come to an end, but the love of riding has just been planted. The team would like to send a huge thank you to Lehigh Cement, TMTA, GranFondo, Kern Wheelmen, Lonestar Sierra and all of their sponsors, parents and coaches for their dedication to making this team a success.