NICA Honors its 2014 Award Recipients

Top row: Dan Brooks, Heather Williams, Dee Seymour, John Tillson, KC Fontes, Trevor von Boeck. Middle row: Rita Gutierrez, Belita Schindler, Jordan Horner, Chris Wentz, Matthew Zalusky, Cam Eng, Carson Beckett. Bottom row: Sienna Leger Redel, Morgan Fletcher, Austin McInerny (NICA), Catharine Pendrel (Team LUNA Chix). Photo: thecaliforniastory.com

 

Outstanding participants in high school cycling leagues across the U.S. were honored at the 2014 National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) Awards, held at Clif Bar & Company Headquarters, in Emeryville, California, January 24, 2015.

NICA presented awards in ten categories to fifteen individuals and organizations considered to be the most outstanding student-athletes, dedicated coaches, and the most supportive volunteers and sponsors to have helped advance the high school mountain biking movement over the past year.  Experience the showcase event through photos taken by Karl Nielsen and a short recap video, to be posted soon.

Clif Bar Volunteer Service Award

The Clif Bar & Company Volunteer Service Award honors an exceptional volunteer with 3+ years of commitment whose dedication of time, expertise and enthusiasm goes above and beyond to make a difference in the organization.

Dee Seymour, SoCal High School Cycling League

Volunteer service is an integral part of the success of our leagues, and so we award two recipients in this category. Dee Seymour has been involved with the SoCal league for 6 years. She worked as a course marshal nearly every race during her son’s 4 years competing for St. Francis High School. When her son graduated she wanted to continue her involvement and took over the Volunteer Coordinator position for the SoCal League. She really stepped-up, especially given she had no children in the SoCal league, is a single mom; one son still in high school and one in college still racing; and she takes care of her aging mother who lives with her. Last season she worked ahead of the season to interact with coaches and solicit volunteers, she tracked which teams were living up to their volunteer commitment (SoCal has a “suggested” commitment of 1 volunteer per 4 racers from each team) and interacted with them to urge them all to participate – and she had very solid success. She was at each race from Friday afternoon through Sunday afternoon working to check-in, welcome, feed, water, and support the volunteers. She also filled in at Registration and Merchandise when time allowed. and she even travelled to NorCal for the State Championships, so she could volunteer as a Course Marshal! She has also made SoCal the beneficiary of her volunteer work at Disney in the form of several $1,000 in grants from the “Disney EARS to You Fund” grant program.

She is coming back for more in 2015 and has already been at work putting together the volunteer registration program.

Click here to view Dee’s acceptance speech.

John Tillson, Tennessee High School Mountain Bike League

John hails from Tennessee and has volunteered his time, money and personal assets to the Marshall County High School mountain bike team. He works tirelessly organizing fund-raisers including bike parts and equipment donations; he arranges practices and race support; ride leader, first aid and CPR classes; and trail maintenance days. John has a deep commitment to the student-athletes, but that is not all – he volunteers at each race as a course marshal and at every race he also volunteers to set-up and take-down the event. He was described as a “rock star” volunteer since the beginning. He is always fired up with enthusiasm and positivity for each race. He steps up to help anywhere and everywhere needed. He has a cow bell handy at every race to cheer. In fact, one of his favorite sayings is “you can never have too much cowbell”.. In the woods, he cheers and encourages every student that rides by. John also has a knack for creating unique noise makers. He made a 6ft steel oxygen tank that he cut in half, hung on a tree branch with a rope, and then hits it with a sledge hammer. You can hear the bell ringing miles into the woods as students pass by John’s marshal point. He is a stellar dad and super volunteer. We are lucky to have him involved with the league!
 Click here to view John’s acceptance speech.

CamelBak Distinguished Alumni award

The Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes a student-athlete who carries on the spirit of high school cycling beyond their high school years.

Matthew Zalusky, Minnetonka High School, Minnesota High School Cycling League

Matthew is described as “a shining star” and “embodiment of the spirit of high school cycling.” He graduated last year after racing in the first two years of the Minnesota High School Cycling Leagues existence. This past summer he continued to meet up with kids on the team to encourage them and help them improve their riding skills. This fall, despite needing money to pay for college, he requested Sundays off from work so he could return to the races, volunteer as a sweep, and give back to the organization that gave so much to him. Further, on race day he checked the rider’s bikes as they arrived to ensure they were in good working order for the race. It is not unusual to catch him cleaning a chain or two before the races. He is always an enormous cheerleader, not only for the Minnetonka team members, but also for the riders he used to battle with in the varsity races last year. He has tremendous respect for other riders and his enthusiasm for the sport is infectious. One parent commented that “he was one of two people during my son’s first year racing that believed in him, saw great things in him, and truly encouraged him.” Matthew continues to be a fantastic mentor for all.
Click here to view Matthew’s acceptance speech.

Primal Wear Race Production Partner Award

The Race Production Partner Award acknowledges an individual whose outstanding partnership role in race productions is key to the success of a leagues race event production.

Chris Wentz, Director Event Medical Specialists, Colorado High School Cycling League

Chris has been the emergency medical staff with the Colorado League since the inaugural race in 2010. Chris and his staff continue to provide exceptional service during race weekends. He is professional, conscientious, and very detailed whether it is scheduling ambulances at rural locations, establishing reporting systems, making his own relay antennae to increase radio range, establishing communications with local emergency systems, determining all access points to the venue and race course, or initiating communication with the race director and production staff before, during, and after every race. Plus, Chris and his staff are notoriously calm and competent. On top of Chris being a stellar EMS provider, he’s been known to jump in with volunteers to pound stakes or zip tie snow fencing. He is currently working with NICA and league staff to develop emergency protocol for the NICA Camps Manual and Wilderness First Aid Manual. He is an asset and contributor to Colorado and the national high school mountain bike movement.
Click here to view Chris’s acceptance speech.

Quality Bicycle Products Community Impact Award

The Community Impact Award honors an individual whose dedication to high school mountain biking has resulted in positive impacts on youth, the community and the organization.

Richard “Dick” Schindler, Minnesota High School Cycling League (posthumous)

NICA was honored to present the Quality Bicycle Products Community Impact Award to the late Richard “Dick” Schindler. The Minnesota league’s Austin Cycling Team he coached had this to say about Dick: “He almost single handedly started the Austin Cycling Team, putting countless hours into research, dialog with other directors and coaches, organizing community meetings and informational sessions, recruitment and registration, and to taking an active coaching role. He also led an effort in trail building from scratch with a goal of producing a training course designed to help the athletes attain competent skills to handle the season’s race courses. His positive attitude was infectious to the athletes, they knew he was proud of them regardless of how they placed. In fact, one athlete was born with a congenital heart defect, which prevented him from any athletic endeavor until now, and on the last race of the year, he finished his first race, placing dead last, but accomplished so much through Dick. An avid cyclist since youth, Dick competed in many races and participated in many rides over many decades, helped to organize local bike rides, spearheaded a subsidized helmet campaign to increase safety awareness and to promote helmet use. He also got involved at the state political level, helping to facilitate joining the existing Shooting Star Trail system to the Austin community and their network of existing city trails and paths. His life ended suddenly mid-season, while riding the trails he loved and was going to eventually work on one beautiful fall morning.”

Dick touched many folks in the NICA, Cycling and Austin communities. So much so, that the Minnesota League will be hosting a NICA race in Austin this year largely made possible by Dick’s efforts. NICA, the Minnesota League, the Austin Cycling Team, and all that Dick touched, thank Dick for his contributions for making cycling and life a better place in Minnesota. Dick wife accepted the award is Dick’s wife, Benita Schindler

Click here to view Belita Schindler’s acceptance speech.

NICA Legacy Award

The NICA Legacy Award honors an individual or organization for their tremendous philanthropic support of NICA and NICA Leagues.

Steve Flagg

The NICA Legacy Award honors an individual or company for their tremendous philanthropic support of NICA and NICA leagues. Recipients of this award understand the importance of — and invest significant energies and resources to — empowering youth through sport.  NICA would simply not exist without our past Legacy Award recipients Jim Easton, Gary Erickson, Mike Sinyard and SRAM. Today, we are thrilled to present Steve Flagg, founder and president of Quality Bike Products, the NICA Legacy Award in recognition of his steadfast support.  Steve is an industry trendsetter who built QBP into the largest cycling company in the USA and personifies many of the values for which NICA stands for.  His legacy through NICA began when he boldly invested in the first midwestern NICA league — the immensely successful Minnesota league — and extends to the success of all NICA Leagues.

Click here to view Steve’s acceptance speech.

Easton Foundations League Founders Award

The Easton Foundations League Founders Award recognizes an individual’s commitment, enthusiasm and perseverance in launching a new NICA league.

Dan Brooks, Director, Georgia High School Cycling League

After a successful career as a corporate lawyer, Dan has turned his attention to launching the Georgia High School Cycling League and we couldn’t have asked for a better person to be at the helm of efforts to bring interscholastic cycling to a region of the country more interested in NASCAR and football! I have had the pleasure of working closely with Dan over the past year and his passion for cycling and for buildling community is considerable. I have also been fortunate to stay at his home in Atlanta and to meet his gracious wife and three young boys and it is clear to me that the Georgia League is in good hands. Thank you Dan for all that you have done over the past year and all of us at NICA look forward to continued collaboration to help get more kids on bike in Georgia and across the nation.

Click here to view Dan’s acceptance speech.

GU Energy Extraordinary Courage Award

The Extraordinary Courage Award recognizes student-athletes who have persevered through challenging circumstances and overcome adversity to develop and excel as a model student-athlete.

Sienna Leger Redel, Park City High School, Utah High School Cycling League

Sienna’s story touches many as most of us share the experience of watching someone we love dearly battle cancer. When Sienna’s mother was diagnosed it was a very dark time for her family. Her mother says Sienna confronted her fear and uncertainty with bravery and spunk. She could have become sad and depressed, but she chose to thrive. And, in spite of the family’s emotional and financial hardships, Sienna preserved. She continued on with her training and racing, coaching and volunteer work all with a positive attitude. She found joy and happiness on her mountain bike during this very difficult time in her life. When she was riding she was able to forget about the cancer and focus on the trail, the mountains, trees and flowers. While mountain biking provided a refuge from the difficult times, the sport is much more than that to her. She is dedicated, hard working and motivated to compete nationally and to race in the Girls Varsity Division in the Utah League. She is known as a positive role model for other student athletes; a courageous person and rider, who holds herself with grace and dignity and certainly well deserving of this award.

Click here to view Sienna’s acceptance speech.

K.C. Fontes, Salinas High School, NorCal High School Cycling League

K.C. is a junior at Salinas High School and is a member of the NorCal League. He is also a cancer survivor, and in seventh grade, he had to have his right leg amputated in order to save his life.
As a freshman, K.C. expressed an interest in riding for the Salinas High Cowboys mountain bike team. He rode the first two years with a prosthetic leg that weighed about as much as his bike! This year, he has been working with a local athlete and fellow amputee on a new, much lighter riding leg, and he has been setting a ton of PRs on the Fort Ord trails. Last weekend at the Cowboys’ annual 2-day mileage camp, K.C. rode a combined 63 miles and climbed more than 3200 feet.
K.C. inspires his coaches and his teammates with his sense of humor and by the fact that he never, ever complains. He shares his story freely and is a role model for his two younger brothers, his teammates, the mountain bike community, and so many others.
Despite a few setbacks along the way, he has never missed a NorCal race. K.C. is incredibly courageous, and although he faces some ongoing challenges, he consistently manages to share his infectious optimism and good-natured spirit with those around him. K.C. is known as an exceptional individual with a passion for biking—whether on a local pump track, ripping downhill, or riding cross country. He also recently got his driver’s permit, and we hope this doesn’t take away from his time on the bike!
K.C.’s courage to ride and race, and lead by example, is an inspiration not only to his team but to the whole league, as well as to the wider community.
Click here to view K.C.’s acceptance speech.

Specialized Student-Athlete Leadership Award

The Specialized Student Athlete Leadership Award honors student athletes who have demonstrated outstanding leadership, sportsmanship, academic performance and volunteerism in their team, school and community.

Rita Gutierrez, Eagle County, Colorado High School Cycling League

In Rita’s 9th grade year, her first year on a mountain bike, she became an instant leader of The Cycle Effect, a women’s high school program that gets young women on bikes who don’t have the opportunity. 90% of the participants are from lower-income, Hispanic families. Rita and one other teammate joined the Colorado League their sophomore year and very nervously participated in their first race. There were very few other Hispanic kids in the league, let alone girls, and the 2-3 family members who attended to support them appeared to feel out of place and unsure of this new sport their daughters were taking on. After the other girl was injured and couldn’t race for the rest of the season, this left just Rita. She hadn’t made many friends on the her new team and still felt like an outsider, but she loved to ride her bike. Fast forward three years, Rita has graduated, and because of her more than 75 girls were inspired to try mountain bike racing through The Cycle Effect program and more than 15 new girls have raced in the Colorado league, and there is now a group of close to 30 parents, friends and family that come to watch their daughters race. Further, Rita has contributed more than 100 hours of community service, she coaches practices and makes sure the girls are there to race and train hard. She public speaks at league events and is a leader off the bike. After only 3 years in the Colorado league, Rita has inspired a new (and possibly unlikely) group of girls to try mountain biking and she turned them into a legitimate mountain bike racing team. And now, the middle schoolers look up to Rita and want to be just like her. She is an inspiration and we are excited to present her with the Specialized Student-Athlete Leadership Award.

Click here to view Rita’s acceptance speech.

Trevor von Boeck, Highlander Racing Composite, Colorado High School Cycling League

Trevor has participated in the Colorado League all 4 years of his high school career and raced Varsity as a Sophomore. In addition to maintaining an en excellent GPA in all honors curriculum, participating in orchestra, mock trial, and volunteering with Kids on Bikes, he formed the mountain bike team at his school his freshman year and is now the club President. The past two summers he has assisted during the week-long mountain bike camps helping younger riders develop their skills on the bike. He is also a past member of the Thomas MacLaren Service Club and participated in a number of volunteer projects. He is a founding member of the Highlander Racing Composite team and has actively recruited riders to the team. Trevor also has leadership obligations with the Front Rangers Cycling Club in Colorado Springs. Trevor trains consistently and performs at the top of any field he enters. As a 17-year old, he was one of 5 top open men at the 2014 Growler behind Ross Schnell. In 2014, Trevor tied for first as the Varsity champion and earned the Colorado League Exceptional Student Athlete Award. Trevor is highly respected by his peers, is an incredibly humble and gracious competitor who quietly maintains an ear to ear grin. He manages to balance an intimidating academic load, extracurricular activities, athletic training and a life off the bike. On the bike Trevor sets goals and works diligently to reach them, and while he loves to be successful, when things don’t go his way he has learned to handle the setbacks with composure and maturity. These qualities make he well deserving of this award.

Click here to view Trevor’s acceptance speech.

SRAM Coach of the Year

The SRAM Coach of the Year Award acknowledges a head coach whose qualities as a leader and motivator embodies NICA’s mission to provide student-athletes with the coaching and camaraderie to help them achieve both competitive and non-competitive goals in a safe and enjoyable manner.

Heather Williams, Ogden High School Mountain Bike Team, Utah High School Cycling League

Heather has been dedicated to the Ogden High School team since NICA came to Utah. She puts in enormous amounts of time and is very motivational. Each of the student-athletes knows that Heather is interested and concerned about them. Regardless of the level of rider that the student-athlete has achieved, Heather is focused on each one improving their fitness and understanding of the sport. She has done an excellent job of communicating with the parents involved in our school. Comments from her students include, “She gave me tips, she taught me about my bike, she told me stories about her own struggles when she was younger and a beginning biker, and overall, she made the ride fun.” “She put just as much time and energy into coaching me as she did our team’s fastest senior riders. She encouraged me, rode with me, pushed me harder than I’ve ever been pushed, and truly defined what it means to be a coach. And she did the exact same thing with every student-athlete on our team.” “She served as a role model and an inspiration to everyone involved with our team, other coaches included. Without Heather, there is no way I would have been able to do as well as I did this season as a freshman, nor would have anyone on our team.” . When asked why she does it, she is always modest and minimizes the amount of work and effort she truly commits to the team, but it’s clear that above all, she loves two things: Mountain biking and teaching kids how to be better at it. She has said that the only reward that means anything to her is to see how her athletes improve their riding over the season, and how that has a direct impact on improving other areas of their lives as well. Heather is deeply loved and respeced by her athletes, and she is a stellar example of what to aspire to as a NICA coach.
Click here to view Heather’s acceptance speech.

Morgan Fletcher, Oakland Composite, NorCal High School Cycling League

Morgan began his involvement with the NorCal Leagues Oakland Composite Team as a ride leader for two years before he took on the role of Head Coach, where, his passion for cycling and getting kids on bikes is unsurpassed. The team has plodded along since it’s inception for 10 years with 6 – 10 kids from 2 schools. No one was able to take the Team to the next level. Through Morgan’s singular effort he has created an infrastructure that now supports 30-40 kids both high school and middle school age. The kids love Morgan. His vision of having a team at each of the Oakland high schools as well as Piedmont, Alameda, Castro Valley, and San Leando are coming to fruition as Skyline High and Alameda High are forming into their own teams. Morgan’s support and leadership of the kids on and off the bike has created an atmosphere where the kids can learn without fear of failure. He focuses on teaching the riders about teamwork, personal responsibility and environmental awareness. Morgan represents the essence of what high school mountian biking is all about. His motivation is to get kids excited about mountain biking, so it will be part of their lives for the rest of their lives. One of his fellow coaches states, ” As a coach myself I aspire to be like Morgan.” Affirmations from his students include: “he is one of the most generous and encouraging people I know,” “he is truly inspiring with his leadership and dedication, “Oakland Composite has completely changed my life, and it would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of Morgan Fletcher ” and further, “I refer to him as the Mayor of Bikes, but most of all, I call him a friend.”
Click here to view Morgan’s acceptance speech.

Trek All-Star Student-Athlete Award

The All-Star Student Athlete Award recognizes student-athletes for their outstanding competitive achievements and potential for future success in competitive cycling.

Carson Beckett, Marshall County High School, Tennessee High School Cycling League

Carson is quiet, unassuming, humble, polite, kind and a respected member and captain of the Marshall County High School Team and Tennessee League. He is known to always be respectful and encouraging of fellow riders, a very humble and driven student-athlete, who quietly goes about his desire to be the best cyclist he can be. He races consistent and strong. His lap times are always within a few seconds of each other with the final lap as the fastest. For each podium he shakes the hand of each of the fellow varsity rider and then takes the top spot. He is never aggressive on the field and always treats his fellow competitors with respect. Carson, a junior, plans to race at the national and international level next season and plans to continue his cycling career at the collegiate level. Carson’s achievements went past the national level and extended to the international level of racing this past season. Along with his Varsity State Championship this fall in the Tennessee League, national PRO XCT podiums and three podiums at the USA Cycling Cross Country National Championships, the Tennessee Bike Racing Association’s Cat 1 15-29 overall champion, Carson was honored with a selection to the USA Cycling European Race Camp this past summer where he achieved a top 10 finish at the UCI MTB Cleran Cup in Belgium and he was selected to represent the United States on the 25-member cross country team to compete in the 2014 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Hafjell, Norway, in September. Carson’s great success racing inside and outside the Tennessee League shows his perserverance and dedication to the sport, and we are excited to see where his cycling career takes him.
Click here to view Carson’s acceptance speech.

Jordan Horner, Burnsville High School, Minnesota High School Cycling League

Jordan has been part of the Minnestoa cycling scene since she was a young girl. After she took her 3rd Overall Varsity Title, this what she posted to Facebook: “Thanks to all of you who made this so possible for all of us. It’s crazy to go from 7 years old being one of the only kids, let alone girls, to be racing in the MNMBS, to now with hundreds of kids and girls racing on bikes. It really is a dream come true and I am so grateful you guys could make it happen! I’ll be back next year, hopefully coaching a team and doing what I can for the league to keep this going strong. Thank you again! You really have opened up so many doors for so many athletes!” Jordan has been a part of the Minnesota League since its inception in 2012 as a leader and a dedicated competitor. She is an incredibly hard working, and dominating mountain bike racer the League and NICA are looking forward to seeing what the future holds for her in racing!
Click here to view Jordan’s acceptance speech.

International Mountain Bicycling Association Teen Trail Corps Award

The IMBA Teen Trail Corps award is a new award this year that honors an indiviudal who has demonstrated respect, empathy and compassion towards other trail users by working both on and off the bike to build awareness and care for trails in their community. Presenting the award is IMBA’s Northern California Regional Director, Laurel Harkness.

Cam Eng, Thunder Ridge, Colorado High School Cycling League

Cam is descrived as quite the powerhouse rider while also being very courteous and observant – a fierce competitor on the trail and a gentlemen off the trail. Cam served on the first NICA/IMBA ambassador student team travelling to Steamboat Springs Colorado to attend IMBA’s world summit where he and three other student-atletes attended sessions and spole on behalf of NICA and IMBA on trail advocy. Locally, as one of his team captains, he is always forthcoming in providing feedback to the riders on trail etiquette and courteous riding. His peers and the adults around him see him as a serious trail advocate and leader in creating and maintaining our existing trail systems. Further, Cam is an incredible ambassador for the sport as demonstrated by his serial comebacks from injuries the past 2 seasons. Even when unable to race he served as a race weekend volunteer, he works at the local bike shop, he actively recruits and welcomes new members to the team, and he advocates the importance of giving back to the local trail system. He even initiated the adoption of his local trail system. Please join me in honoring Cam Eng.
Click here to view Cam’s acceptance speech.