Sophomore sensations: Truckee, Sugar Bowl athletes capture mountain bike state championships
As Sugar Bowl Academy sophomore Hayden McJunkin sits at the start line before the state championship mountain bike race, her heart begins pounding.
It’s a familiar feeling ahead of a Nevada Interscholastic Cycling League race, and one she knows will disappear as soon as she begins pedaling, moving past the start/finish line sign and onto the course to battle against her fellow competitors.
“I get really nervous race day mornings,” McJunkin said. “I was standing at the start line with a heart rate of 145.”
McJunkin went on to win Sunday’s race, which took place on the trails near the Tahoe Donner Cross-Country Ski Center, and in the process, captured the season-long points title with first-place finishes in each of the three events this season.
“This race, I just felt so grateful for everyone that supported me,” she said.
This season was McJunkin’s first year racing varsity. She was the junior varsity state champion last year as a freshman.
“This year I decided to switch to varsity to have more competition,” she said.
The varsity girls rode four laps on the course, which was 4.1 miles and included 500 feet of climbing.
“The toughest part was the hill coming out of Euer Valley,” said McJunkin. “It’s pretty steep.”
McJunkin led the majority of the race, keeping Alta Alpina Composite (Carson City, Gardnerville) senior rider Audry Keasling at bay.
“I put a gap into (Keasling) on the downhill but she caught right back up on the uphills,” said McJunkin, who added she is more comfortable on the downhills and technical sections of courses.
McJunkin reached the finish line with a time of 1 hour, 18 minutes, 13.89 seconds. Keasling finished shortly after, with a time of 1:19:59.26, followed by McQueen senior Rachel Higgins, who finished with a time of 1:21:20.79 to claim third place on the day.
Truckee’s Seline continues winning ways
On the boys’ side, Truckee sophomore Matt Seline took home the win and overall state championship.
Seline captured second place to open the season, and then won the second race in Reno before closing out the year with a victory at Tahoe Donner.
“All of the hard work that I’ve put in throughout the season pays off in races like these,” said Seline. “And when you get to the end, it’s a good feeling that all that hard work paid off.”
Seline had to overcome a pair of crashes during Sunday’s event, but still managed to hold off the field during the five-lap race to claim the win with a time of 1:27:24.84.
“A lot of the time you want to panic and kind of freak out,” said Seline on recovering from a spill. “I just try to keep myself calm and keep it under control and get back on.”
Seline was also the winner of the mountain bike portion of the Great Trail Race, which took place Oct. 6.
Galena senior Ried Indart was second place with a time of 1:27:59.26. Bishop Manogue junior Terran Hood was third place, finishing with a time of 1:29:41.31.
In the team standings, which combine boys and girls’ finishes, Galena captured the season-long title with 6,537 points. Truckee was second with 6,334 points, followed by Incline Village Composite Team with 6,312 points. Sugar Bowl Academy was fifth overall with 6,209 points.
Junior varsity results
In boys’ junior varsity racing, Mammoth senior Axton Albrecht came away with the win and secured the season-long points title.
“This was probably the highlight of my whole year,” said Albrecht, who finished the race with a time of 1:12:45.38.
Albrecht, said he plans on continuing to compete at the college level next season.
On the girls’ side, Wooster junior Abby Swall took first place with a time of 1:04:20.40. Truckee junior Ciara Wing was second with a time of 1:05:03.28. Wing’s finish gave her the overall series championship. Incline Village junior Emma Lawson was third on the day with a time of 1:10:24.36.
Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at email@example.com.