NICA Honors its 2016 Award Recipients

For the seventh consecutive year, NICA is thrilled to recognize outstanding participants, coaches, volunteers from interscholastic cycling leagues across the United States. While an awards banquet was not held this year, each recipient is being presented a custom plaque acknowledging their achievements.

NICA presented awards in eleven categories to thirty 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 interscholastic mountain biking movement over the past year.

NICA’s President Austin McInerny observed, “With over 425 nominations submitted this year, the selection process was extremely challenging. This year’s award recipients are exemplary in so many ways and NICA is thankful for their involvement and contributions. While each recipient is unique in their various accomplishments and roles within the NICA community, they all share a strong belief in our core values of inclusivity, fairness, equality and a desire to strengthen body, mind and character thru cycling. Congratulations to this year’s NICA Award recipients!”

Clif Bar Volunteer Service Award

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

Photo: Seth Francis

Jon Francis, San Rafael Bike Dawgs, NorCal League

Jon has been an invaluable volunteer in the NorCal League community in a number of ways for the past eight years. He began as a ride leader in 2010 and then stepped up to be the head coach of the San Rafael Bike Dawgs High School MTB Team from 2011-2016. As head coach of the Dawgs, he mentored numerous other local coaches, as well as recruited more volunteers, and built the team into a solid and sustainable school-based program. In 2013, Jon joined both the NorCal League Board of Directors and the NorCal Rules Committee. He has served as the Chair of the Rules Committee for the past three years, and continues to remain an active board member. Jon is an incredibly thoughtful, fair and enthusiastic volunteer who has directly supported our League Director, the NICA Rules Committee and the League community as a whole throughout his service.

 

“While all youth sports help convey life lessons, we NICA coaches ride with our students, so we all suffer and sweat and get muddy and sore together. And that’s the most viable way I’ve found of at least trying to model some of the attributes and skills I think we should all aspire to – resilience, flexibility, resourcefulness, composure, teamwork, preparedness, stewardship… sometimes even forgiveness. Being able to do that out in nature, riding bikes, makes it even sweeter.” Jon Francis

Photo: Sean Franklin

Rich Vincent, 7220 Laramie Team, Colorado League

Rich has devoted countless hours to the 7220 Laramie Team and the Colorado League since 2010. He is a member of the Colorado League Rules Committee. He served on the Wyoming Council on Physical Fitness, was the Laramie Enduro race director for a decade, is very involved with IMBA, and spearheads a number of cycling initiatives. Rich finds innovative ways to support coaches and racers to ensure that they are able to attend trainings and races. He helps coordinate the annual Stone Temple and Granite Girls Mountain bike camps. Rich also volunteers at every race weekend with course setting, race venue set up, and course marshaling. He epitomizes the definition of SERVICE.

 

“I believe “camaraderie” best sums up my experience with the Colorado High School Cycling League. That term embodies the ideals of equality, inclusion, acceptance, mentorship, sportsmanship, encouragement, support, sacrifice, and community, that sense of belonging, which are part of every league race and event. I have been blessed to meet and interact with so many talented, amazing, and caring people. I am fortunate to have made lifelong, life-changing friendships from all sectors of the league family (students, coaches, parents, volunteers, and officials).” Rich Vincent

CamelBak Distinguished Alumni Award

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

Photo: Selective Vision Photography

Jason Christiansen, Pleasant Grove High School, Utah League

Jason was one of the first students to join one of the very first teams formed when the Utah League was launched in 2012.  He “caught the fire” and loved it.  At the time, he was a junior so he raced for 2 years with the league at the Varsity level. After graduation, he volunteered at every race on the race crew as an assistant course setter. Then in 2015, at Race #2, he became the Chief Course Setter and did an amazing job. Jason’s skills and dedication led to him becoming full time staff in 2016. He now serves as the Utah League Programs Manager.  His love for the sport and of life is contagious. He is an absolute joy to work with and a model employee. He makes our work fun! Everyone loves Jason and working with him. He is the embodiment of NICAs 5 Core Principles. Outside of the league, he races Enduros and does very well in the pro category. He also teaches mountain biking to juniors in a competitive mtb club.

 

“Mountain Biking was a sport that I fell in love with and after graduating wanted to make sure that every kid receives the opportunity to experience the same excitement and joy that I did.  I have witnessed camaraderie within this sport that you cannot find in any other high school activity. What makes this program unique is there is no bench, Never!  We strive to make sure that every kid that comes through our program decides to turn cycling into a lifelong sport, because of the fun and the memories that they have had participating within the league.” Jason Christiansen

Photo: Scott Griggs

Tristen Musselman, Northland Prep Academy, Arizona League

4 years ago Tristen had a dream to start a MTB team at her school. She was a good student and a good cyclist who wanted to share her love for the sport of cycling with others. Through many hours of meetings with school administrators, and endless recruiting of students, she was able to assemble the Northland Prep Academy team consisting of 4 riders their first season. Through the next 4 years, her advocacy to the sport of MTB and commitment to grow the team was rewarded by a team of 20+ riders this past season.  Tristen now attends Ft. Lewis College in Durango, however, she is still very active in the team and comes back to cheer them on as often as possible. Her dream to start a team through stamina and hard work was realized and her drive to grow the team – and the sport – is still very alive.   

 

“Leadership, perseverance, and commitment are what I have taken away the most from NICA. Being an individual and team sport, mountain biking has allowed me to improve my personal cycling abilities but has also fostered an environment for me to expand on my leadership skills. Mentoring and supporting my fellow teammates was definitely a highlight of the program and watching my teammates improve was, and is, my favorite part about staying in touch with my team.” Tristen Musselman

Shimano Race Production Partner Award

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

Photo: Matt Medore

Matt Medore, Casino Bicycles, SoCal League

Matt Medore is an inspiration to his community.  He owns a local bicycle shop (Casino Bicycles) that became involved with NICA SoCal nearly ten years ago. He has volunteered an untold amount of hours providing mechanical support for riders during race weekends to ensure every rider has a safe bike to ride. He drives his truck and mobile support shop to each race at his own expense. In addition to race day support, Matt volunteers his time and donates his resources for two local teams: Hemet and San Jacinto High School Mountain Bike teams.  Though he owns a busy store, he will immediately drop what he’s doing to ensure SoCal riders and coaches’ bicycles are out on the trails and ready for race day. Matt displays the very spirit of volunteerism that has made NICA so successful.

 

“Over the last 8 years, my store, Casino Bicycles, has offered ongoing paid and unpaid internships which many SoCal League student-athletes have participated in. These internships first start off with an in-depth product training from our main cycling brand and NICA supporter, TREK Bicycles. After completion, students are given retail training including customer service and sales, marketing, and store management. Additionally, NICA gives students an opportunity to participate in a team sport. Pretty cool to think back and realize that you had an integral part of introducing a program and seeing it through 10+ years later.” Matt Medore

Photo: Christian Falcon

Christian Falcon, Arkansas League

In Arkansas, Christian IS race day. He works tirelessly to insure races are set-up and safe. He is always the first person to arrive and the last to leave. It doesn’t happen without him on his 4 wheeler getting stuff done. He is never too busy to ask individual teams if they need anything. He produces bike racks out of thin air, seems to pull magic tools from unseen pockets, and knows the best way to set up, tie down, and pack simply everything in the world. Oh, he also coaches a team, loves to ride his bike, works full time and is an amazing dad. Christian is our “go to” person not only on race day but throughout every step of the way.

 

“The friends that I have made and the great relationships that I have had the opportunity to build have been life changing. It has given me the opportunity to expand my learning and skills in racing production. Through coaching this past year I have seen many dedicated kids come far. NICA is different than any other sport because the race is not only about winning; it is about kids getting out and riding with their friends. I love NICA for being that.” Christian Falcon

Quality Bicycle Products Community Impact Award

The Community Impact Award honors individuals whose dedication to interscholastic mountain biking has resulted in positive impacts on youth, the community and the organization.

Photo: Calvin Jones

Calvin Jones, Stillwater Mountain Bike Team, Minnesota League

Calvin started the Stillwater Mountain Bike Team and has grown it from an idea to the largest high school mountain bike team in the state of Minnesota with over 70 riders.  He has done this by having a vision of what the team could be and finding the right people to volunteer and commit countless hours to coaching, fundraising, trail building and more. Any teen that wants to ride is provided for by Calvin and his crew of volunteers.  They have loaner bikes, helmets, shoes, etc, so economic means is not a barrier.  They converted an old barn into a bike storage area and have built trails within riding distance of school, so parents don’t have to drive their kids’ bikes to school or shuttle the kids to areas to ride.   He is one of the hardest working people and a true visionary for what high school mountain biking can be.  The sustained growth of the team and the impressive way that he has gotten parent involvement through volunteering versus just taking care of their own kids has created a large community of bike lovers within Stillwater.

 

What really powers this team, and I think all NICA teams, is the love and support of parents for their children. We work to capture that in ways to bring families and the community together. We have created a program where kids can make friends with other kids around the sport of biking, and where families can meet other families with shared interests. That is no small thing.” Calvin Jones

Photo: Jesse Atwood

Jesse Atwood, Uintah High School Mountain Bike Team, Utah League

Jesse has been the head coach for the Uintah team in Vernal, Utah for three years. Vernal is a small rural town in Utah and it was a struggle to get a team going before Jesse came along. His energy and enthusiasm are contagious and his team loves him. Not only does he serve as head coach for the team, he is also an active volunteer for the Utah League as well. He helps with race set-up and other tasks pertinent to hosting a successful event. But when it comes to community impact, no one compares to Jesse.  In 2016, Jesse built a mountain bike racecourse in Vernal for the Utah League. Three months prior to race season, 5 different potential race venues fell through for various reasons. On short notice, Jesse said that he could build a course.  Within just a few days, he had a course marked for Lori Harward (League Director) to inspect. One can only imagine how hard Jesse and his team worked to cut singletrack, and have the course ready to ride so quickly. It was the opening race and all that attended loved the course and the venue.  Vernal is a small rural town that has been on an economic downturn since the oil industry left several years ago. The Utah League races had the greatest economic impact to Vernal above any other tourism event. “The estimated total economic impact of the races was well over $250,000 for the weekends combined.

 

“I have loved being a part of NICA and quickly gained a passion for the league.  I love watching these kids grow and accomplish things that they never thought would be possible. My “why” is the seeing the look in these kids’ eyes when they come across the finish line and knowing that they have accomplished something great. I see that look in every kid on our team, from the fastest, most competitive kid to the beginner that has never ridden that many miles at once.  I love the wide range of abilities that this sport allows and I love that as coaches we don’t have to push each athlete to become something that they are not comfortable with.” Jesse Atwood

NICA Legacy Award

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

Photo: Linda Guerrette

Brian Vaughan, Chief Endurance Officer, GU Energy Labs

Brian Vaughan of GU Energy Labs has been a strong supporter of NICA since the beginning and has not only provided consistent financial support enabling NICA to continue to expand, but has also leveraged his company’s resources to help educate NICA’s membership on the importance of proper nutrition and hydration. Brian continues to serve on the NICA Honorary Board and tirelessly champions for NICA causes, and looks for opportunities to involve NICA staff and students in fundraising activities that GU Energy promotes across America. While a resident of Northern California, Brian works to bring attention to all NICA Leagues and has inspired many co-workers to collaborate closely with NICA to get #morekidsonbikes.

 

“NICA and high school mountain biking has had a significant impact on me over the 12 years that I’ve been involved. I’m highly motivated to see the youth component of the sport grow because it empowers the entire community to live a healthy and active lifestyle, while teaching us skills that we’ll carry with us the rest of our lives. NICA’s ethos is to build strong minds, bodies, and characters—this culture will challenge us, but ultimately lead us to success.” Brian Vaughan

Easton Foundations League Founders Award

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

Photo: Andrea Dvorak and Peter Hufnagel

Peter Hufnagel & Andrea Dvorak, Virginia League

Working as a husband-wife team, Peter and Andrea launched the Virginia League in 2014. They have seen great success in building ridership as well as working to build support within their state for their participating team’s efforts, while also working effectively to represent NICA’s core values across the country and amongst the bicycle industry. Building on their strong connections within the professional cyclist community, Peter and Andrea have been able to bring attention and respect to the efforts both within their league and to the broader successes across other NICA Leagues.

 

“NICA has been a community builder in Virginia. Student-athletes, families, volunteers, and coaches in the League have become a network of friends, colleagues, and adventure partners. The races serve as social gatherings where a group of remarkable people come together and hang out in some of the most scenic locations in the state. It has made cycling a family adventure again.” Andrea Dvorak & Peter Hufnagel

Photo: Kathy Mock

Kathy Mock & Don Edberg, Wisconsin League

After a number of years of watching NICA’s growth, Dons’ interest grew as he has was looking for ways to grow youth ridership in his Wisconsin Off-Road Series, one of the longest-running mountain bike race series in the county. With Trek’s encouragement and support, Kathy stepped-up to assist with the planning and coach outreach effort and a strong working partnership formed. Through their efforts, Wisconsin launched a full interscholastic race series in 2014. With nearly 500 students participating in their third season, Don and Kathy have shown how a committed parent can work with an existing race promoter to help get #morekidsonbikes in a predominately rural Midwestern state!  

 

Photo: Don Edberg

“Becoming the WI League Co-Director and launching the WI League has definitely been the most rewarding and challenging experiences in my life. It has allowed me to positively impact the lives of student-athletes, coaches, and parents. It has reassured me that surrounding yourself with great people and impacting their lives in a positive manner is extremely rewarding.” Kathy Mock

 

“Being a part of the NICA program has given me a great appreciation for how the combined efforts of many selfless individuals can create a program that brings joy and growth to all of those involved. The insights gained from working with youth and adults involved in the program have bought me personal growth and keep me excited for the future.” Don Edberg

GU Energy Extraordinary Courage Award

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

Photo: Woodberry Forest School

Efose Oriaifo and Coach Nolan LaVoie, Woodberry Forest Mountain Bike Team, Virginia League

Efose is essentially blind, barely seeing shapes without his glasses. That presents a big problem when you get on any bike. Still, he wanted to ride trails and compete. So, Coach Nolan LaVoie of the Woodberry Forest School’s mountain biking team ordered a tandem mountain bike and rode with Efose every day. Efose trusted Coach LaVoie to help keep him safe riding the trails. On race day they would line up with Efose’s teammates and competitors ready to navigate the same course and to achieve the same satisfaction and enjoyment as everyone else.  Efose shows that no disability can keep you from doing what you want to do. As a real trailblazer he demonstrates that mountain biking truly is an all-inclusive sport to be enjoyed by anyone who has the desire and courage to get on a bike.

 

“As we build leaders for the future it is essential that we gives kids a chance to practice, compete, practice again, compete again and see their progress. It’s a very tangible and real way to see their steps forward or steps back which I think makes the learning much more authentic. The fact is every kid should get that experience.” Nolan Lavoie

 

Through the NICA program, I have come to realize that my visual impairment is merely a minor inconvenience and that other people’s apprehensions need not stop me from pursuing what I truly want to do. In fact, the standards I hold myself to are no different to those of fully sighted people.” Efose Oriaifo

Photo: Angie Harker

Madeleine Hales, Alta High School, Utah League

Madeleine is an extraordinary student-athlete.  She raced for Alta High School in the Utah League for 4 years.  Madeleine lives daily with autism and was an inspiration not only to her teammates, but also to many other student-athletes, coaches, and parents throughout the league.  What was most impressive about last season is that Madeleine raced varsity, and kept battling to finish despite the challenges presented to her daily. In the first race, Madeleine had a hard day on the course, but was able to finish all three laps. During the third race she crashed so hard her handlebars broke in half. She handled the adversity with a smile and was always positive. Madeleine exemplifies all the best of what NICA stands for. Given the progress she has made over the course of four years, her grit in the face of a very challenging disability and her influence on everyone in the League, Madeleine exemplifies all the best of NICA.

 

“I have difficulty making friends in social situations. Through NICA, I found people I could connect with because we love mountain biking. The NICA program allows me to experience nature and enjoy the outside world, my ‘nature therapy’.” Madeleine Hales

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.

Photo: Marin Kammer

Marin Kammer, Lone Peak Knight Riders, Utah League

At Lone Peak High School, Marin was the first female Knight Rider to complete all 4 High School years of racing. Her senior year she became the Lone Peak Team Captain and was responsible for managing 25 other girls on the team. Marin set a goal to podium in the Varsity Girls category. During one of her races she was riding in 4th place, was cut off, crashed, broke her bike frame in half and incurred some injuries. She proceeded to carry her bike over a mile, jump on her brother’s bike and finish the race. She said she needed to set a good example for the other girls on the team, by not giving up. For her accomplishments Marin did end up on the podium that day earning the Utah High School Cycling Team Spirit Award. Marin spends her free time building and maintaining trails in many communities around Utah. On a Humanitarian trip to Mexico this past summer she built a dental office and handed out hygiene kits too much needed families. Marin lives the NICA core principles and is an incredible leader and role model to her team.

 

“NICA has given me the opportunity to be involved in numerous trail building projects around my community. Building trails is long, hot, and physically exhausting but also extremely rewarding. It has given me a great appreciation for all the trails we ride. Being able to ride a trail that you built just makes the experience that much sweeter.” Marin Kammer

Photo: Zac Olsen

Nicole Rusden, Twin Valley Mountain Biking Team, Pennsylvania League

Nicole demonstrated outstanding leadership through her activism in getting the school district to recognize mountain biking and obtain approval from the school board to start the Twin Valley Mountain Biking Team. She initially organized a group chat with her fellow high school classmates in organizing mountain bike group rides and encouraged them to experience the joys of biking. Through her connectivity and inclusive personality the team came together and quickly formed a strong bond. Nicky’s positive sportsmanship qualities were an incredible example to the team and the middle school girls. With a hug to her fellow racers before and after each race – she showed the entire team and the league that they were friends first and competitors second. Nicky made a huge sacrifice in the early season of her senior year – she was balancing the newly formed mountain biking team, school, and varsity soccer.  Nicky realized that her academic performance and two sports was too much and her love for mountain biking was too great. Nicky willingly sacrificed soccer to make sure the Twin Valley Mountain Bike Team succeeded during its inaugural year. Nicky also volunteers with a school group to support fellow students that struggle with confidence – she dedicated the week before the final championship race to be there to support these classmates even though it meant a lack of sleep. Nicky has truly made sacrifices to help promote women in Mountain biking that will be realized for generations to come.

 

“The NICA program has impacted me by introducing me to so many new people and has deepened my love for biking even further. The atmosphere of NICA races is different than any of the other sports I have participated in. Everyone cheers each other on. It is amazing to see how no one hesitates to help someone when they crash or have bike issues.” Nicole Rusden

Photo: Krystal Denfip

Grant Wilson, Marshall County High School, Tennessee League

Grant is not only a very successful cyclist who has raced coast to coast and holds several state titles and three top ten finishes at USA cycling national events, he is also a gifted leader, honor student, avid runner. Being active in the community is very important to Grant. Helping others makes him feel good. He was elected to be on his school leadership team, one of the few underclassmen to be in their program. Through leadership he was allowed to partake in multiple programs at Marshall County High School such as: helping Kids against hunger, operating his school clothes closet, tutoring struggling students, along with many other programs. Because of his discipline to his own nutrition Grant took charge of his school’s cafeteria nutrition menu providing students nutritional information to get adequate fueling for the day. Grant successfully helped to start up a competitive mountain bike team at McCracken County High School. He is involved with helping his team do trail work and maintenance and mentors younger riders on his team. Grant is a student-athlete that has demonstrated outstanding leadership by his daily actions. He shows great sportsmanship by helping others on his team by always encouraging them and cheering them to do their best. Grant is extremely humble and always puts others before himself.

 

“NICA has impacted me in a positive way. Not only is it a base of growth for me, but for every student in the program. It teaches discipline, commitment, shows integrity of athletes, and builds friendships along the way. I hold cycling dear to my heart because it is a lifetime of lifelong memories.” Grant Wilson

Photo: Edward Anderson

Edward Anderson & Josh Craig, St. Christopher’s School, Virginia League

Sometimes it takes a team…

Josh and his good friend, Edward, grew up mountain biking together. They loved the challenge the sport brought them, the growing process of getting better, and the bonding experiences of sharing their adventures with each other. Determined to share these experiences, Josh and Edward started a mountain bike team at their school, St. Christopher’s in Richmond, Va. The journey was challenging, yet the two riders were undeterred in their efforts to reach their goal. As seniors and team captains, Edward and Josh were always seen recruiting, encouraging, and helping younger riders during pre-ride and race-day. The two captains instilled in their younger teammates a love for the sport; something that will ensure mountain biking remains at St. Christopher’s for years to come.   

Edward’s legacy goes beyond his 4-wins in the Varsity Boys Category. While earning a 4.5 GPA he is co-head of the Middle School Mentoring Committee, head of his school’s Trail Committee, and a member of Students for Environmental Awareness, He volunteers for a trail advocacy group and as an Eagle Scout earned a Bronze Palm. During his summers, he coaches at Virginia Outside MTB Camp. Edward has signed with one of the world’s top U23 international cycling teams. His passion for the sport and the adventure it brings is contagious, and that’s what makes him a great leader, teammate, and member of any community.   

Photo: Josh Craig

Josh is an exemplary student off-the-bike as well. He is the co-head of the Peer Advising Program and a Middle School mentor. He is involved with Boys Scouts, having earned Eagle Scout, Order of the Arrow and Senior Patrol Leader. He volunteers with a trail advocacy group, helps build and maintain trails in the Richmond area, and a camp counselor at the Virginia Outside MTB camp. His enthusiasm and positivity are what make him a great teammate and friend.  

Edward and Josh have been instrumental in putting interscholastic mountain biking on the map, at their school and in their community – their mission accomplished.  

 

“NICA has been a transformational program for me both in terms of my riding and in my development as a person. The Virginia League provided me, and my fellow racers, with a fun, supportive, safe, and competitive environment to pursue the sport we all love. Throughout the season, competitors get to know each other on a personal level; many of my best friends are the ones I met through my participation in NICA. Without NICA, there is no way I would be where I am today as a student, athlete, and leader.” Edward Anderson

“The ability to overcome great challenges and the resilience to rebound from failure are characteristics that I never thought I would see in myself. Without the NICA, I would not have experienced an atmosphere in which I was able to develop these attributes. Being part of the NICA taught me self-worth and provided the opportunity to form supportive relationships that guided me towards personal fulfillment as a member of a national community. I am honored to have been able to experience such a program first hand, and I know the relationships I have formed will stay with me for life.” Josh Craig

SRAM Coach of the Year

The SRAM Coach of the Year Award acknowledges head coaches 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.

Photo: Dayna More

Mike Bagg, Yucaipa High School Mountain Bike Team, SoCal League

Coach Bagg has run the Yucaipa High School Mountain Bike Team since the first season of SoCal having attended the first ever (outside of NorCal) Leaders’ Summit in Big Bear in the fall of 2008. Though his son graduated years ago, he continues to run one of the two largest teams in SoCal which is a “model” program in many ways. They have a large number of coaches, high school boys and girls, and a large middle school program. In addition to all of that, Mike has been on the SoCal Rules Committee for 8 seasons, he is SoCal’s representative on the NICA Rules Committee, he has helped secure race venues for the League, and he has taught and led both at SoCal Leaders’ Summits and online for NICA. Mike has helped develop a school based MTB team “Teachers Aid” program where kids learn bike mechanics and get a list of all the skills they have learned to show to bike shops if looking for mechanic work., Coach Bagg has helped form and lent coaches to start a rival team (Beaumont HS) which is now one of the largest and most “put together” teams in SoCal. It really just goes on and on in quality, quantity, and longevity. Plus, from a competitive standpoint, Yucaipa has probably appeared on more team podiums than any team in SoCal League history.

 

“I’ve taught at Yucaipa High and dreamed of starting a MTB team. The opportunity to join SoCal made the dream come true. It’s been a huge part of my life. It allowed me to coach and ride with my son as well as touch the lives of hundreds of student-athletes. You can’t attach a value to that.” Mike Bagg

Photo: Matt Hornback

Heather Goodwin-Nelson, Provo Composite Team, Utah League

Coach Heather goes above and beyond for her student-athletes. She coaches them not only on their biking skills, but also on life skills. She teaches them to set A, B, and C goals and to measure success in increments. She teaches camaraderie and acceptance among cyclists.  Heather also leads all training on inclusion for students with special needs. She spends many hours planning effective practice rides, but also makes sure to plan fun team camp outs before events and other team building activities. Heather is always there for her student riders a 100% of the time. In her years working as an independent coach and as a league coach, she has helped Utah MTB grow from a small sport to a hugely popular and competitive state sport. She sets the bar high for other leagues across the nation in her organizational, motivational, and all around AWESOME MTB coaching skills. She’s always courteous, kind, encouraging, and a team player.

 

“Over the last five years I have worked with my own kids and coached student-athletes (of all abilities) to build strong bodies, minds and character thru inclusive and equitably participation in mountain biking. Volunteering my time and talents to coach student-athletes reach their goals, grow from failure or disappointment, and embrace a culture of respect for others fuels my enthusiasm for the future.” Heather Goodwin-Nelson

Photo: Michelle James

Tim Leary, Great Valley Mountain Bike Team, Pennsylvania League

Coach Leary realized the importance of getting a team together in a time when many kids who play school sports sit on the sidelines.  When the school district told him this year they would not sponsor a bike team he didn’t let that stop his vision.  He reached out to the community for support.  Farmland was donated and with help he cleared the land, created trails, and maintained the area throughout the season. His passion was contagious. By embracing the Core Principles of NICA Coach Leary created an environment where everyone belonged from kids who never were on a bike to very experienced riders. He encouraged each rider to reach for goals appropriate to their ability and made sure everyone gained and further developed their mountain biking skills all while creating a team of strong camaraderie where many new friendships were forged. For the riders on his team this program meant more than winning a race, thanks to the values and coaching of Coach Tim Leary.   

 

“The impact, of this program, that is most apparent to me is the way the riders interact with each other outside of practice and during the offseason. Kids that weren’t normally hanging out before the team are now riding and hanging out outside of team atmosphere. The really special part also is the parent-rider participation. We have parent volunteers that get to witness the personal development of their children through our program. The excitement for this program and riding mountain bikes that the kids exhibit is spectacular and infectious, it has been such a joy to be a part of this movement and NICA.” Tim Leary

Photo: Cathy McDonald

Cathy McDonald, St. Croix Valley Composite, Minnesota League

Coach Cathy launched the St. Croix Valley Composite team for the 2013/2014 season with the help of her husband Chad. Under her guidance the team has grown to over 50 student-athletes with 20 coaches covering a large area of the Hudson/Riverfalls metropolitan area. The team has succeeded with her tireless commitment to NICA’s core values and she places an emphasis on giving back. The student-athletes all perform trail maintenance at their local trail, White Tail Ridge, which hosts a race on the Minnesota High School Cycling League series. Cathy keeps practice fun and focuses on the athletes, a philosophy that has driven the growth of the team.

 

“I have the privilege of working with some awesome kids, parents and coaches.  We are blessed to have so many parent coaches!  This program allows parents to participate at a level that no other sport can.  I ask ALL parents to join in, ride along, or volunteer.  We find a place for them that fits their comfort level and let them grow.  NICA not only gets more kids on bikes, but inadvertently gets more adults on bikes as well as it becomes a family adventure.” Cathy McDonald

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.

Photo: Sean Duffy

Gwendalyn Gibson, Ramona High School MTB Team, SoCal League

Gwendalyn is an extraordinary athlete. She began mountain bike racing in her freshman year at Ramona High School and slowly rose to greatness. As a freshman she placed in the top five finishers qualifying her to ride JV her Sophomore year. Gwendalyn came and swept every JV race. She has now won back to back JV and Varsity State Championships. She will be representing USA Cycling as she races across the world as well as planning to start college this fall. Gwendalyn is a hardworking and modest athlete while maintaining a 4.0 GPA. Gwendalyn awes her teammates with her spirit and dedication. She has been a rising star and truly found her passion for mountain biking through NICA.

 

“Being a part of the Socal league allowed me to grow as an athlete and now I get to travel the world to race my bike and meet so many amazing people along the way. No other event compares to the camaraderie and positivity that I’ve experienced at the NICA races and I feel really lucky that I’ve had the opportunity to be apart of that.” Gwendalyn Gibson

Photo: Angie Harker (Selective Vision)

Lia Westermann, Salt Lake Composite, Utah League

To name a few of her many cycling accomplishments, Lia has been involved with the Utah High School Cycling league for 4 years, the last two as a Varsity racer. Wearing the Salt Lake Composite jersey she has consistently been on the podium. Lia embraces and exemplifies NICA’s 5 Core Principles. This is shown through Lia’s service in her community and in her helping coach a local development mountain bike club. She is enthusiastic, kind, and encourages others on her team. She is a friend to her teammates and competitors alike. Academically Lia works hard to get excellent grades and succeed in school, earning several scholarships. Lia is 2-time Enduro National Champion and in 2017 raced in the Pro Women Category earning  2nd place in the Scott Cup series overall. She received the “Utah Gravity Rider of the Year” award, and is a dual-slalom champion. At a young age Lia has accomplished remarkable things.

 

“While participating in the Utah High School Cycling League, I learned that the most important thing is that student racers should feel included on their team as a part of a community of kids that simply love to ride. NICA inspired me to experience the fun and joy of pushing yourself while riding a bike with friends.” Lia Westermann

Photo: Luc Busquin

Paul Fabian, Prescott High School, Arizona League

In the spring of 2014, Paul approached the neighboring Prescott High School coaches and said, “I want to race mountain bikes.” Not a student at Prescott High, Paul raced as an Independent Rider. His first year he rode at the Sophomore level basically by himself with support from local riders and Prescott High School that adopted him into the fold. His determination kept him going as he rode with a huge smile to earn 6th Place Overall that year!  To improve his technical skills Paul attended camps and broadened his racing to Epic Rides.  Then totally “stoked’ over mountain biking, Paul finished his Junior year 2nd overall in Arizona.  With more gusto than before, he was selected to enter USA Cycling races where he placed 5th overall at Nationals in Mammoth. Wanting to be part of something bigger his senior year led Paul to change schools and attend Prescott High School. He is now on a high school team and elected Team Captain. The support from his team fueled his strength giving him the energy to set course records culminating in earning Varsity Boys 1st Place Overall. Paul will continue racing in college and at 17 the maturity gained racing will serve him well.

 

“After competing in three years of NICA, I can proudly say that it played a huge role in getting to the point I’m at today. I think factors such as inclusivity, and leadership, as well as a mix of individual competition with a team sport dynamic really makes for a unique experience.” Paul Fabian

Photo: Daniel Johnson

Daniel Johnson, Independent Athlete, SoCal League

Daniel was arguably the most dominant male rider to come through SoCal to this point. He raced in an outstanding field and nearly won the SoCal JV series as a freshman. He then went on to win JV State Championships at Stafford Lake in Marin against both SoCal and NorCal riders. He won the SoCal Varsity series as a sophomore and was at the lead at States at Laguna Seca before an unfortunate incident cost him the race. He was recovering from a broken femur in the off-season of his junior year but still won three SoCal League Varsity series races. He then won Varsity State Championships at Los Olivos against both NorCal and SoCal riders. He dominated the Varsity series in SoCal as a senior then won State Championships for the second time in a row. Basically, for three years, if he was “on” in Varsity he was hard to beat. An incredibly gritty athlete and racer who is also now doing well at the Pro level.

 

“Being able to participate in Mt Biking as a High School sport has been one of the best thing that happened to me. I love riding bikes…The crowds and families at the races were energizing and helped give validation to what I loved the most. NICA has reached so many kids and families far exceeding what other interscholastic sports have done.. I’m excited to see what this momentum will continue to do for our sport!” Daniel Johnson

REI/International Mountain Bicycling Association Teen Trail Corps Award

The REI/IMBA Teen Trail Corps award is a new award this year that honors an individual 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. 

Photo: Molly Bruce Photography

Spencer Ciammitti, Cactus Shadows High School, Arizona League

Spencer began riding with the Cactus Shadows initially for his health. His coaches instilled in his team the NICA core values. One of these values is being of Strong Character: work hard, play fair, respect others and the community.  Spencer believes this inspired him and his teammates to look deeper into the sport through advocacy and, thus, he began working with Teen Trail Corps. For him it has been an amazing program that has allowed him to give back to his community. Energized, he began to work toward a Trail Captain Badge. He participated in many various trail projects over the last two years. One project he worked on with his local IMBA chapter that made a lasting impression was a trail access point which ran through a creek. The creek made it difficult to keep the trailhead from washing away. Spencer organized a plan to have volunteers do trail work that has kept this section in good standing. He considers the work an opportunity to participate closely with the Desert Foothills Mountain Bike Association, his local IMBA chapter.  He has spoken on their behalf at Town Hall on several occasions. Through the strong character Spencer and his teammates have shown, the Teen Trail Corp initiative aims to educate and inspire youth to contribute and show respect for the trail and the community. Spencer has learned what actually goes into a trail before a tire even touches it!

 

“NICA has honestly changed my life forever. At first, NICA was just a way to regain my physical health but it evolved into something so much more. I think the two most important impacts have been the establishment of a strict work ethic and the community that contributed to who I am today. Cycling is a sport in which you only get out what you put in.” Spencer Ciammitti