Since December the St. Francis mountain bike team has been preparing for the 2016 SoCal League High School Mountain Bike series. This will be the eighth season in the league for the Golden Knight cyclists. As a member of the SoCal League, the Golden Knights will compete against 100 other high schools on challenging cross-country mountain bike courses throughout Southern California.
Under the guidance of Head Coach Eric Hamilton, the Golden Knights are looking forward to building upon last year’s success. A critical statistic for St. Francis, they have not had a single DNF (did not finish) in their previous seven seasons, a testament to the hard work and diligence by these student-athletes.
“Each year we have worked hard to improve the infrastructure, training, team building and nutrition so that we can provide an environment for the student athletes to learn how to safely and competitively race mountain bikes, plus enjoy cycling for the rest of their lives,” said Coach Hamilton.
The team includes returning seniors George Orloff, Nick Perez and Michael Vega. After winning the league championships and state championship as a sophomore, Orloff advanced to the varsity level when he was a junior, giving him a preview of what racing in the varsity class would be like. Also because he played soccer for the SFHS Golden Knights in the fall, he has been cross training and working on his fitness.
Perez and Vega have also put in long hours in the saddle and are looking forward to the race season.
Representing the junior class and racing in JV division for the Golden Knights will be Charles Patterson. This is Patterson’s third year on the team and he has greatly improved his racing and fitness in hopes of improved results this year.
Racing in the sophomore division is Garrett Hamilton. After having a successful freshman year, Hamilton received a call up at the first race of 2016, meaning he will be starting in the No. 1 position at the first race in Lake Perris. He continues to cross train on his Enduro bike.
The Golden Knight freshman class is the largest since the inception of the program. Six new freshmen joined the team. New to the team this year are Julius Hoffman, Maximus Ochniak, Sam Poon, Ethan Qua and Esteban Sanchez. Also racing in the freshman division is Chris Perez. This technically is the “second season” for Perez because he raced in the league’s middle school program last year as an eighth-grader.
A highlight of the 2015 season was when Fr. Tony Marti traveled to Los Olivos for the state championships in May. He celebrated Mass on Sunday morning at 7 a.m. before the day of racing began. Damien High School athletes, parents, coaches and even strangers walking by the team Pit Zone joined in the Mass. Tom Moran, the school’s principal, and Jim O’Connor, a distinguished math teacher, also made the trip to see the Golden Knights race.
“I am very grateful to the administrators and staff of St. Francis for supporting our team. The school sees the value of our program and has really supported us since the beginning,” said Coach Hamilton. “I am also grateful to our sponsors, parents, and coaches for their time to help make this program strong. Our race venues are two or more hours away from St. Francis and require a tremendous amount of logistics and coordination. It really does take a village.”