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North v. South: California High School Championships Coming Up

Caden Maves (Nevada Union High School, Grass Valley) takes a bottle at the recent NorCal league championshops. Photo: Robert Lowe

It may be called the California state championships, but this weekend’s high school mountain bike races are also a battle of north versus south.

For the third year in a row, California’s leading young racers will gather May 15 for the National Interscholastic Cycling Association’s California State Championships in Los Olivos near Santa Barbara.

Honors at the state championships, like the league events, go to both individual riders as well as school teams from the founding NorCal league and the SoCal league.

This year it is anybody’s guess which riders and teams will emerge victorious. The Sir Francis Drake High School team, based in the shadow of Mount Tamalpais in Marin County, is California’s most successful high school team to date. The team, the Drake Pirates, has won the past two state championships.

“We hope to do our best against a somewhat unknown, and certainly stronger than last year, SoCal League,” said head coach Paul Chourre.

For the past two state championships, SoCal teams have had to travel to venues in Northern California. This time around, teams travel to Los Olivos, 40 miles northwest of Santa Barbara.

“We will be traveling a long ways to unfamiliar territory,” Chourre said.

WHO: California’s top junior mountain bike racers
WHAT: California State Championships of High School Mountain Biking
WHEN: May 15th, racing commences at 10 a.m.
WHERE: Los Olivos, Santa Ynez, California

Pete Kirkham, head coach of the Hemet High team, the SoCal League champions, has had to revise his hopes now he is without his two top female riders. Varsity star Emma Klingaman is out with pneumonia and his lone sophomore girl, Katie Shawver, is unavailable. But with 18 registered racers in the championship he is registering high excitement levels within the team.

“I’ve been to the last two States, in NorCal, and it’s nice to have this year’s race in our backyard, so to speak, and on a course we’re very familiar with. SoCal should be bringing home a few more winner’s jerseys this year I think,” said Kirkham.

The NorCal High School Cycling League was founded in 2000, and in 2009 a SoCal League was formed. Last year, the NorCal league had more than 500 high school mountain bikers from 40 schools across Northern California participating. The growing SoCal league is fielding more than 100 racers on more than a dozen teams.

Also in 2009, the National Interscholastic Cycling Association was launched. Since then leagues have started in Colorado and Washington State, with others about to launch in Texas and Minnestoa. By 2020, NICA’s vision is to have developed high school mountain biking coast to coast.

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