Every few months we tell a story from within our NICA family that exemplifies the meaningful impact our programs have for all involved. We want to hear your stories!
Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject: “Point of View.”
“Last year was his first year learning to ride a bike and racing – on one of the team’s loaner bikes. Last year his goal was to finish every race he started. And he did – he finished every single race in last place. But he never quit – always coming across the line feeling good about his race. He didn’t qualify for “States” last year. This year he told me that his goal is to qualify for state champs. After 3 races so far this season, he is in 22nd place out of 35 kids – a HUGE improvement over last year. Before and after each race he comes to find me to let me know how he’s feeling and how he did. I think he’ll make his goal. Strong character!” – Lauren Haughey, Team Director
We caught up with Jesús to ask him a few questions:
What’s your favorite thing about training/racing with the Oakland Composite/Skyline High School MTB Team?
The first thing is to have fun and talk with my friends. And then we train and we tell each other what we can improve on. You can practice and practice, and get better. When you work hard, you can achieve something in mountain biking.
Why I like racing is you have to try your hardest to be the top racer. Sometimes when you are by yourself during the race you can feel free in nature. I like the Boggs race because of the trails, the trees, the birds, and the animals. I also like going to the races because you get to talk to your friends and coaches. After, we talk how the race was and how next time we can improve.
How has the NICA program positively influenced you off the bike?
I am healthier now and more proactive. I want to go outside more. I don’t like being inside my house too much. I’d rather go for a walk or hangout with friends outdoors.
What do you like to do during the off-season?
Off-season, I want to train more on my bike because I want better results riding and racing. I also like to visit family in LA and Mexico.
Do you have a favorite racer, or bike personality? If so, who and why?
I like Coach Morgan [Fletcher] from Oakland Composite because he pushes me on the bike to work hard and train my skills. He is happy for all the kids that join mountain biking so they can have this experience.
What do you have to say to all the other students out there that might be thinking about joining a team and haven’t taken the plunge, or to those that haven’t heard of the program yet?
JOIN! It will help you with your physical health and it will be a lot of fun. Girls should join, too, because they should have this experience of being on a bike team. A girl named Isabel [Agundis] used to be on our team and she really liked mountain biking. She was very proud of herself that she tried this sport.
We also caught up with Jesús’ Coach, Mr. Raytis:
Jesús first came to us after seeing our small team of five ride by the soccer field at Skyline after school. He wasn’t getting much playing time on the soccer team, and thought what we were doing looked like fun. I don’t think he has looked back once in the past two seasons.
The first ride he came on was an Oakland Composite weekend practice. Their goal is to get more kids on bikes and launch new Oakland teams so that high school mountain biking in the East Bay takes off. Skyline is one of the first teams they have successfully launched. On that particular Sunday, there were forty plus kids on bikes, riding at all levels. Jesus was in the beginner group, on a loaner bike and not yet comfortable riding on trails. He walked most of the downhills and was just getting a feel for the whole experience. After a couple of practices and a decent downhill spill(bloody knee), Jesus would stop at the top of most downhill sections, make the sign of the cross and say a little prayer to himself, then go for it. Needless to say, this ritual is a thing of the past, as he is confident riding our local trails. After his passion for mountain biking caught fire, not a day went by when he did not come in to my classroom and ask, “When are we going to ride again?”
I knew Jesus had a lot of heart and was the real deal after one of his early races. This was the first race that his family was able to come out and support him. He was extremely proud to have them there. As his freshman D2 category took off from the start, he had a hard crash 300 yards into the race in a gravel section. He had bloodied his knee(again), limped a bit back to his bike and just as we all thought that was it, he got back on and hit it! He finished his two laps, came in last. He was visibly disappointed about crashing. Jesus kept saying “everyone saw me crash” and one of the coaches said,”you know what else everyone saw… we all saw you get up and keep going.” His attitude instantly changed and Jesus the little determined racer was born.
Fast forward two seasons, Jesus has been Skyline’s most dedicated team member on and off the bike. Jesus comes to every practice early, helps prep bikes and organize our bike shop. He shows concern for his fellow teammates and their progress. We have named him team manager and he is proud of the role he plays on the team. Jesus has put in a lot of hard work on the bike and now rides with the faster race group on Sundays and most days, its a hammerfest. In each race, he has steadily moved up a few spots from last place and is moving towards the middle of the pack. Currently, Jesus is on the edge of qualifying for States by placing in the top 70% of his category. He is becoming known in our group for being all heart and we couldn’t be more proud of his progress!