Ever wonder how a NICA race comes together? How do tranquil trails and empty fields become transformed into an exciting race course and energy-filled pit-zone? Well in addition to student-athletes, coaches and parents, NICA races are supported by over 10,000 volunteers nationwide! Volunteers serve as everything from race announcers to course setters, to sweeps to photographers and NICA races would not happen without the efforts of these talented individuals.
We'd like to introduce you to two of our amazing volunteers, Jill Morgan and Jason Gonsalves.
Jill serves as the Registration Manager for the Pennsylvania League and also manages the Registration Guild. What stands out about Jill is her professionalism and ability to collaborate and think outside the box while keeping the safety of her student-athletes at the forefront.
Pennsylvania League Director Mike Kuhn said "Jill keeps PICL rolling, she manages all aspects of registration and merchandise while contributing to a phenomenally successful PICL GRiT camp, overseeing the budget, managing league orders, and coordinating the checklist for events. Despite this load, she is always among the first to step up when one of the rest of the crew needs support. Her title is something like "Project Manager" but that doesn't really do justice to how important she is to the PICL organization. I'm incredibly grateful that she chooses to invest so much of herself in this league. This thing would fall apart without her and would be heck of a lot less fun too, because in addition to all the other skills she brings she knows how to bring the fun!"
Jason Gonsalves volunteers as the Chief Course Setter for the New Jersey League. In addition to helping NICA set up its National FCC Radio Licenses, Jason has gone above and beyond his duties in New Jersey to help trail Chief Course Setters for new leagues including West Virginia and Maryland.
Curious as to what a typical weekend for a Chief Course Setter looks like? Well Jason gives us the 4-1-1 on getting race weekend ready to roll!
A typical weekend starts on Friday where I take care of any last minute trail concerns. These range from simple corridor cutbacks to cutting new single track. I typically wrap up Friday by rough marking the entire course to the point where volunteer setters won't get lost.
Prior to volunteers arriving on Saturday, I have all the bins of setting materials out of the trailer and lined up along with all the packs. Rarely do all the volunteers show up at the same time so I will often run through the training a few times. This is the benefit of having the course rough marked on Friday, as I can send teams off as soon as they are trained and remain by the infield to tend to any other course issues and late arrivals.
I have the volunteers pack their bags as we go through training so they understand each component. Typically, I ask the volunteers to work in groups of two where one will carry stakes and hammer and the other signs and tape. While one volunteer is placing stakes, the other is preparing the signs or pulling tape. If we have enough volunteers, I'll split the groups between signs and tape and have found that works very well. With situations where we use step in stakes or pins, I will usually take on those projects or at least get the materials dropped around the course.
We have two ebikes, one that pulls a Burley trailer and one that pulls a Bob Ibex trailer (I think I racked up right around 130 miles this season setting). Now that we have dedicated Chief Course Marshal and Course Setter, Tom takes care of all the EMS and marshal signage on the course. We have one volunteer, Mike Cohn, that has attended all but one race this season and has been a tremendous help with course preparation. Typically, I can hand off a project to him and when I check in with him later in the day find everything executed perfectly to plan. You typically find him bouncing around all weekend long working on projects and helping out anywhere he can. He's the closest thing I have to an assistant course setter and I definitely feel the heat a little more when he's not around. I finish off the day with a pre-ride where I record the course on GoPro so I have a reference when returning to the venue.
On race day, I start with an early morning pre-ride to take care of any last minute issues and check in on course conditions. I then spend the rest of race day as a roving course marshal and dealing with any course issues that come up during the day.