Tam Mountain Biking Season in Review


By Sam Pletcher and Sam Pletcher

On a sunny April day in Petaluma, the mountain bike team eagerly awaited results from their race. “We weren’t sure whether or not we beat Drake [High School] as an overall team,” sophomore Ian Pratt recalled. The mountain biking scene in recent years had been dominated by Drake, who had won five of the last six California State Championships. “Then they started reading out the score, and we all knew that we got above 4,000… They said [Drake got] 3,900, and we started cheering. It was pretty awesome,” Pratt said.

Tam had won their first ever D1 race in team history. They totaled 4,022 points in the event, with 1,599 of them coming from sophomores Julian LePelch, Liam Howard, and senior Clayton Puckett. “The top eight riders will score from the team, so it’s really a team effort,” sophomore Hobey Pollack, who finished third in the sophomore division, said. “If you do well and your teammates don’t, your team won’t do well.”

True to Pollack’s statement, Tam held podium finishers in all five categories. Puckett placed fourth in the varsity division. LePelch and Howard finished first and fourth, respectively, in JV. In the sophomore boys category, Pearson Ames, Pollack, and Zach Baum finished second through fourth. Freshmen Clodagh Mellett and Kelsey Van Allen came in second and third in the freshman girls division, and Kaveh Pourmehr finished third amongst the freshman boys.

This season Tam beat Drake at not only Petaluma, but also at Granite Bay near Sacramento on March 20th. In this ride, they scored over 4,000 points and finished in second place, signifying their arrival as a strong contender. “It was such a great year,” Pratt said. “This is the first time Tam has gotten first [in a D1 race] in history, and just being a part of that…it’s just awesome.”

Tam had been building up to such a finish throughout the season. The team started strong, finishing third at the Fort Ord racecourse in the first race of the year on March 6. But to the program, including junior and cocaptain Felix Slothower, the immediate success was a surprise. “I never expected it to happen,” Slothower said. “It was very special. We never really got that close in previous years.”

For coach Patrick LePelch, this early success was a sign of big things to come. “Initially, it was unclear how we would do as a team from a scoring point of view… [We realized our potential] in the first race because we made the team podium, and that was only the second time in the school’s history that we had made it on the podium as a D1 team. So that, to me, was an indication: okay, we’re well on our way,” LePelch said.  Coach LePelch’s assessment was accurate, as demonstrated by their solid finishes at Granite Bay and the win in Petaluma.

The camaraderie between teammates was a major reason Tam had such a successful year, according to team members. “There’s just such a big sense of community,” said Pratt. “Everyone’s there for you, and we’re all friends with each other. Even some of the freshmen were cool too.”

Slothower echoed Pratt’s thoughts. “You get to ride with old friends and new friends, and they’re all very fast. You get to talk to them about how it was during the race, and how they felt.”

“I’m on the bike team [to] be closer to the biking community… This is a lot of fun to be a captain when we’re doing so well. I definitely am very proud of all the people on my team for doing so well,” Slothower said.

Tam is in position to be a perennial contender, possibly on par with Drake, and the next couple of years are looking particularly bright. Only four seniors are leaving after this season, and riders such as Julian LePelch, Howard, and Pollack, will all ride for the Varsity team, where they can accumulate a greater number of points. The JV level could also see some improvement, with many strong freshmen prepared to move up. As Slothower put it, “We’ll be pretty destructive next year.”

“I’m thinking that…the team could in fact do very well in the state and make it on the podium,” said Patrick LePelch. “I think the team has that potential.”