Student-athletes, coaches, team directors and league officials are focused on February 26, the start date of yet another record-setting year of mountain bike racing with the five-round Northern California High School Cycling League.
In a year in which the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) embarked on its most expansive season to date, with seven racing leagues taking place in six states, the NorCal League, which is where it all started back in 2000, continues to grow at about the maximum manageable rate, with athlete numbers expected to reach 650, up 14% from last year, and team numbers up 16%, 43 this year compared to 38 in 2011.
Vanessa Hauswald, the NorCal League’s director, said, "With more teams than ever, the 2012 NorCal League race season will showcase the power and determination of riders from every skill level. Thanks to our incredible coaches, we are able to provide the opportunity for every student-athlete to succeed on these teams. We look forward to seeing even more community members and non-cyclists out to cheer on the kids this season!"
Emily Cerna, Salinas Cowboys, varsity, started two years ago as a freshman and now in only her third year is leap-frogging junior varsity to go straight in into varsity.
"I worked very hard at this last year, and now, being a junior going into a varsity race, I am very excited yet nervous at the same time because the competition level is so high in varsity girls," said Cerna. "I'm also excited for my team, The Salinas High Cowboy Racing Team because I think they will do very well! I probably couldn't accomplish so much without my coach/dad Mike Cerna and my coaches Robert Estrella and Jim Warwick."
Sean Bennett, of the El Cerrito team, moves into junior varsity after winning the freshman's league last year.
"I haven't been racing in a couple of months, so I'll have to see how I've progressed, but I'm very excited," said Bennett. "The community in my school that know about cycling is small, but we have a pretty good team and we’re all loving it. It's our lifestyle! My Mom has started riding too now, she's mainly into road bikes though, but she's a pretty good climber."
Related news of the NorCal League is a post-series trail care program, starting in June, for all venues on the race calendar. In this community and environmental support effort, student-athletes and other team volunteers will give back in the form of trail maintenance work that will leave the facilities in even better shape than they found them.
Throughout this year the NorCal League is recruiting parents and coaches to join an advisory committee focused on restructuring the NorCal league into two conferences for the 2013 season. With 650 riders racing this year, the league is fast out-growing its venues.
2012 NorCal League series venues and dates
February 26: Race #1 Granite Bay Challenge
March 18: Race #2 Central Coast Classic
April 1: Race #3 Laguna Seca Grand Prix
April 15: Race #4 Boggs Mountain (or East Garrison if rained out)
May 6: Race #5 NorCal Championships
May 20: California State Championships Los Olivos/must qualify/reg opens May 1