Pedaling the path to success

Oakmont mountain bikers earn place at Nationals
By: Brett Ransford, Special to The Press Tribune
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One season was all it took to make it to the national stage, as coaches Dave Cooley and Carl Guettler took a rookie team and watched it develop in a matter of months. The Oakmont High School Cycling Club stepped away from the NorCal High School Mountain Bike Racing League and into national limelight. The Vikings will send four riders to compete in the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships July 16-19 in Granby, Colo. Lauren Falzarano, Ashley Ismail, Evan Shorter and Erik Strasser are headed to the national event as the Oakmont Cycling Club qualified four of its seven junior varsity riders. Oakmont finished in sixth place in the Division II standings, after the season’s five team and individual races. Last year, the race categories were separated by high school classes, but now the riders are separated by age. The Oakmont riders will compete in the 15-18 age category at the national finals. There are no varsity riders on the Oakmont team, but Shorter matches up pretty well with anyone. He finished second in individual junior varsity rankings for 2009. He was in the top five in all but one race, holding the leader’s jersey for a time after the second Granite Bay race. With his motocross background and having been the engineer of the Oakmont Cycling Club, Shorter proved his ability. “He’s better now than I ever was,” Guettler said. “I wish I was that fast just once in my life. Evan will do very well next year as a varsity rider.” Not far behind Shorter in his first time ever in competitive mountain biking was Strasser, who ran 17th overall. Strasser began the season on a generic bike riding around town, but the Roseville Police Activities League lent him a fitting mountain bike. Guettler calls him very consistent and regards his improvement all season a testament to his personal commitment to achievement. Falzarano finished in the top 15 overall standings for junior varsity girls. She also plays soccer for the Vikings and used her endurance to build on a timid start, according to Guettler. Holding the team together all season was Ismail. Possibly even owning the ‘team mom’ label Ismail encouraged her teammates to push themselves. Ismail finished 11th overall and took third place in the first Granite Bay race. “The team dynamic completely changed when she (Ismail) joined the team,” Guettler said. Freshman Vincent Roman provides a prime example to understand the team mentality of this group of riders. Roman crashed just two hundred yards from the finish line at one race, requiring ambulance assistance. Before medical aid made it the other Oakmont riders finished, threw down their bikes and stayed beside him until paramedics took over. Oakmont battled all season long to qualify riders in the toughest division and age range possible. “To have over half of your team make Nationals is just awesome,” added Guettler. “The caliber of riders in NorCal is incredible and it was amazing to us coaches how much the team did on their own.”