Brevard finishes second in first Division I national championship

By Joshua Cole, Brevard College Class of 2016

SNOWSHOE, W.Va. – The Brevard College cycling team finished runner-up in its first Mountain Bike Nationals at the Division I level of USA Cycling, wrapping up three days of competition 30 points behind national champion Fort Lewis College.


The Tornados gave everything they had since racing began Friday with short track; Saturday at the cross-country, and downhill race later that day; and finally Sunday with the team relay and dual slalom. “The team performed very well this past weekend in our first division I collegiate national championship event,” said Brad Perley, head coach cycling coach at Brevard. “Not everything went our way, but we entered a deeper level of competition when we were moved into division I and we’re incredibly happy with the results.”


After all the points were tallied, Brevard finished in second with 711 points behind Fort Lewis, which accrued 741 points, and in front of Marian University's 696 points.


Team Relay

The Tornados began the last day of competition with a 30-point lead over Fort Lewis. Sunday began with the team relay in which two men and two women, or one and one, are pitted against other schools for a “hot lap,” racing one lap per rider at a blistering pace. The nature of the team relay allows men and women from different schools to race alongside each other in a co-ed type setting, depending on how each coach designed their schools roster. Brevard chose to race, Cypress Gorry, Zach Valdez, Janelle Cole, and finish with Allison Arensman.


The short track course was set to be the stage for which the Tornados would defend their lead. Fog and cold dominated the course in the early morning when the relay took place with vision of less than a few hundred feet.


Supporters of all kinds were out in force to cheer on their school’s athletes as if racing themselves. This event stands out as one of the more remarkable events in cycling due to the extreme camaraderie teammates exhibit as they turn themselves inside out for their teammates, friends, coaches and school.


Gorry took the foggy start line alongside his competition; the music went silent, and the gun shot off followed by the clatter of over 20 teams’ riders as their feet met pedals. A flurry of team colors sprinted up the starting straight with one team’s rider crashing after making contact with another rider and nearly sending Gorry to the ground.


When Gorry emerged from the fog he was only seconds off of the lead male rider from Fort Lewis, and as Gorry passed over the designated line, Valdez began pedaling up to speed from the starting box, and overtook Gorry as he passed the finish line, followed by a female rider from Fort Lewis.


Valdez’ effort gave Brevard a commanding lead over the race, and put Fort Lewis into distress. As Valdez, Brevard’s last male rider, came across the line, Cole took up the pace keeping a steady lead until coming back around to the starting straight where some of her lead had been reconsolidated by Fort Lewis.


The last effort was up to Arensman, but less than 20 seconds later, Fort Lewis crossed the line, and sent off one of their fastest men in pursuit of the Brevard rider. After emerging from the single-track, which was just before the finishing straight, Fort Lewis emerged along with Arensman, and overtook her with about 500 meters to go. Arensman pushed until her she couldn’t anymore, but still showed incredible speed and determination. She finished nearly 10 seconds in front of the oncoming Marian University rider for second place.


Just as the Tornados thought they had secured second place in the team relay, USA Cycling declared that there had been a relegation issued against an unnamed Brevard rider for illegal movement in the starting box, where all relay racers had awaited their start after their teammate came through. The relegation set Brevard back 10 seconds on their relay time.

Relegations of this sort plagued not just Brevard, but also Fort Lewis, and a number of other teams to the astonishment of riders and supporters present.


The call came as a serious blow to Brevard, the smallest and newest Division I school, attempting to overcome the stranglehold that both Marian and Fort Lewis have held on nearly all Division I collegiate national championships in the last decade. After the time relegation, which set Brevard not in second for the relay, but third, below Marian, the Tornados possessed only a nine-point advantage above Fort Lewis in the team omnium.


Dual Slalom

Following the team relay later in the day was the last gravity event of the weekend’s events, dual slalom. Similar to ski slalom, dual slalom pits two riders against each other down two lanes of similar terrain and gates to negotiate. Racers switch lanes after the first round, allowing riders to ride both the fast lane and the slower lane averaging their times together to determine placement; the winner moves on to the next round until only two riders are left in the finals, while the losers are eliminated, still able to score points depending on their placement.


The fog had cleared, but the weather was chilly in large part due to the event’s location at the top of a ski resort vulnerable to the wind. The slalom track was short, composed of a few berms, doubles (rolling ground which riders will either pump their bicycles through or jump over). The event is an exciting crowd pleaser with racers exhibiting fast, twitchy bike handling skills and no lack of showmanship.


The riders from Brevard which made it through qualifying rounds were Walker Shaw, Kyle Grau, Zach Hutelin, and Callum McEwen for the men, and Sarah Hill and Nicole Miranda for the women. Against Brevard stood both Marian and Fort Lewis who possessed an exceptional variety of BMX riders, which suited the flat, fast, flowy, and semi-dry track. Both Shaw and Grau had found success on the previous day’s downhill race placing sixth and second, and looked like favorites for Brevard.


McEwen raced against a Lindsey Wilson College rider, but was unable to match his times through the twists and tricky doubles. After taking a run on both the red lane and opposing blue lane, which was the slower lane, McEwen was eliminated, but not without earning a solid position in 23rd of nearly 60 racers.


Hutelin raced against a rider from University of Massachusetts Amherst beating him after a close race won by fractions of a second, and sending Hutelin on to the next heat. His next opponent was Zach Graveson of Fort Lewis; Hutelin was unable to match Graveson through either the red or blue lanes, but finished as Brevard’s third strongest rider sending him into 14th.


Grau, one of the newest additions to Brevard’s gravity team, found himself against a Colorado Mesa University rider who Grau easily dispatched. The next heat Grau found himself against the shredder from Fort Lewis, Graveson, and the same rider that eliminated Hutelin. Grau had a poor start in the red lane, being eclipsed by Graveson easily, while Grau’s performance on the blue lane faster than Graveson, the Fort Lewis rider had done too much damage in his first run agains Grau and eliminated the Tornado from competition. Grau finished in a very respectable seventh place.


Shaw, like Grau had a strong impact on the Tornados’ dual slalom success. First facing a fellow SECCC rider from Appalachian State, Shaw defeated him without much trouble. Next up for Shaw was a rider from Fort Lewis that found the Brevard rider’s speed too much to match, with large gaps of seconds opening up between the two riders and allowing Shaw an easy second-heat win. Shaw’s next and final competition came from Alec Bob of Marian. After Shaw’s run in the blue lane he experienced pain from a shoulder injury from the last summer of racing. His time, considerably slower than Bob’s, accented the issues his injury created; he continued racing, but on his last run, in the red lane, he was only able to match the Marian rider’s speed and finished as the strongest Brevard rider in sixth.


Marian’s Bob went on to take third place, while Graveson of Fort Lewis won the dual slalom event.


Brevard’s two women racing slalom, Hill and Miranda, both raced well rounding out the Tornados’ week of racing. Miranda’s first opponent was a very strong rider from Marian, Shayona Glenn. Miranda wasn’t able to match the quick speed that Glenn set down, and found herself eliminated, but still finished 15th out of 30 women.


Hill faced off against a Lyndsey Wilson rider, but was unable to match the skills of the Lyndsey Wilson rider, whose team is notable for their proficiency at BMX. Hill finished in 13th rounding out the points for Brevard.


Miranda’s opponent, Glenn of Marian, ended up finishing third in slalom and being one of three female Marian riders finishing in the top five that day.


Read coverage of Day 1 and Day 2 of Brevard's trip to Mountain Bike Nationals from Joshua Cole.

Featured image courtesy of Kayla Leed.

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