Pedal to the Medal


HOT ON HIS TAIL: Freshman Clayton Puckett prepares to pass a Terra Linda rider at a race in Folsom, CA on March 10. Photo courtesy of: Cody Duane-McGlashan

By Samantha Ferro

The Tam Mountain Biking team took third place in the State Championships on May 20, losing to Drake for the ninth year in a row. However, the team did win this year’s NorCal league Championship. To determine the winner of NorCal, the total points earned from all five of the regular season races are added up, and the team with the most points wins. Tam earned a total of 20,713 points, putting the team on top. Previously Drake had won Norcals for the past eight years. However, Tam broke their streak this year, beating Drake by 13 points and Redwood by 839 points.

After countless hours of work, Tam came out on top with the help of junior Jason Dunne, who was the only Tam student on the podium in the state championships this year. Dunne got second place in JV. “I’m really satisfied with how the state championship race went. I knew that Petaluma would be one of my better courses, as I primarily train on hills, so I shot for one of the top spots,” he said. “States was a tough race for the team. A lot of our best riders were injured or sick, so we didn’t see the kind of results that we usually get.” Dunne is hoping more freshman will join the team for next year to improve the team. “With many good riders graduating this year, Tam is going to need a lot more recruitment if we want to stay in competition with Drake.”

Overall, Dunne enjoyed being a part of the team this season. “This year has easily been my best season so far. Freshman year I was averaging 25th place, last year I averaged 6th place, and this year I finally got my first win. Climbing through the ranks has been a tough journey, but definitely a satisfying one,” Dunne said.

Graduating head coach Patrick LePelch is already excited for the next season to start, “Next year the competition will be even stronger as the sport continues to grow.  We’re losing 11 graduating seniors who will be tough to replace, but we have some very strong JV and Sophomore riders who will be fun to watch compete next year, and we have a couple of very strong incoming Freshman who have been riding with the team all year. We have our eyes on 2019 State Champs,” LePelch said.

Both the head coach, LePelch, and the assistant coach, Mike Van Allen, are proud of their team.

“It is a great feeling knowing all of the hard work that went into it,” said Van Allen, who will take over as head coach next year. “Scoring better than Drake over the course of a long, 5-month season requires dedication and consistency.  We coaches feel incredibly lucky to have such a strong competitor in Drake. We have a great relationship with them and cheer one-another on at races.  They make us better. To have defeated Drake in the series is the ultimate achievement for any team, and for us to have won the regular season by a mere 13 points (out of 20,713) is amazing.”