September 18, 2008

Bobcats Pedal to Third Place on the Podium; Swart Earns Three National Titles

Colorado Springs, Colo. - The Lees-McRae Bobcats pedaled their way to a bronze medal finish in Division I Team Omnium at USA Cycling's Collegiate Track Nationals, bettering their fifth place finish a year ago in San Diego, Calif. Setting the pace for the Bobcats was junior Carla Swart, the reigning women's Div. I road national champion, who saw three gold medals draped around her neck at this event.

As a field of over 300 riders from colleges and universities across the country, including ten cyclists from Lees-McRae, converged upon the 7-Eleven Velodrome in Colorado Springs, Colorado for the three day National Track Championships, it became evident that not only would this year's competitors have to battle each other but they would also have to face some compromising weather and the effects of a higher altitude in the process. Heading into Nationals the Bobcats had two goals in mind: 1.) ride to a place on the podium and 2.) beat their national rival Fort Lewis College. They accomplished both.

Bobcat cyclist Carla Swart (Buford, Ga.) wasted no time in racing to a national title, taking the gold medal in the first event of the championships, the Women's 2k Time Trial, and giving her team their first points toward a team omnium title. Swart finished a full 3.5 seconds ahead of second place rider Tirrel Groventein (Colorado State University). Also riding well for the Bobcats was Kristi Henne (Plainview, Ark.) who took 12th place.

In the Men's 3k Time Trial, Scott Jackson (Chatham, N.J.) was the top finisher for the Bobcats coming in 20th with teammate Wentworth Knipe (Sheffield, Va.) who rode in a mere second later to take 26th. Also competing in the 3k TT was freshman Juan Martinez (Carolina, Puerto Rico) who rode to a 45th place finish.

In the rain-delayed Collegiate Team Pursuit Final Friday afternoon, the mixed foursome of sophomore Christopher Bogedin (Rochester, Mich.), freshman Ryan Crawford (London, Ontario), junior Chloe Jackson (East Hampton, Conn.), and Scott Jackson earned a bronze in the two-kilometer event which combines both men and women in a single team event. The Lady Bobcats combination of Henne, C. Jackson, Adormarie Martinez (Villa Coralina, Puerto Rico), and Swart teamed up for a sixth place finish in the Women's Team 3k Pursuit.

The Women's 14k Points Race saw Carla Swart, who was only three points behind Marion College's Sinead Miller, jump with one lap to go, gaining 50-meters on the field, before Miller closed the gap to take the final sprint points as well as the national title. Swart finished second with 17 points behind Miller's 22. Kristi Henne claimed 16th in the race.

In the Men's Sprint Finals the Bobcats' Diego Ramirez (Miami, Fla.) claimed the lone top twenty spot when he captured 20th. At the end of day two the Bobcats sat in fourth position in the Div I Team Omnium standings with 374 points, 14 points behind third place Fort Lewis.

The third day of competition opened with the Women's 500m Time Trial where three Lady Bobcats finished in the top twenty. Chloe Jackson pedaled to a fifth place finish, Henne rode to 14th while newcomer Adormarie Martinez finished 16th.

Another newcomer to the squad, Christopher Bogedin, finished with an extremely impressive time of 1.07.992 in the Men's Kilometer Time Trial, fast enough to claim sixth place for the Bobcats in the event. Went Knipe, Ryan Crawford, Diego Ramirez, and Scott Jackson finished 25th, 35th, 39th, and 41st respectively for the Bobcats in a field of 76 top competitors.

Bogedin teamed up with Knipe, S. Jackson, and J. Ramirez in the Men's 3k Team Pursuit to claim a fifth place finish for Lees-McRae to help keep the Bobcats in the running for a place on the podium in Team Omnium.

The women returned to the track for the Women's Sprint Finals next. After qualifying third, Lees-McRae veteran Swart took two straight from Andrea Fisk of Reed College to take another national title on the young 08-09 season, her second in three days. Chloe Jackson held on to a tenth place finish with Adormarie Martinez claiming a 12th place.

In the final event of the last day of USA Cycling's Collegiate Track Nationals Bobcat cyclist Scott Jackson was edged out of first place in the Men's Point Race when ninth place finisher David Espinoza took the final five points of the race, keeping him from passing the eventual champion Nik Reinerrt (University of Pittsburgh) and forcing him to settle for the silver. Bogedin also competed for the Bobcats in the race, finishing 27th overall.

When the Individual Omnium titles were announced it was the determined Carla Swart who was called to the top of the podium for the women after compiling 189 points. Second place finisher Sinead Miller of Marion College (Indianapolis, Ind.) had 145.

"I went to Colorado wanting to win the points race and fell short. Instead I got second in that race and won all my other events. I didn't expect to win the other events but when other people believe in you as much as they do you don't want to disappoint them," said Swart. "I am very blessed to have great teammates that helped me out with my bike and supported me before, after, and during my races. They also went through a lot of trouble to help when I felt sick because of the altitude. I wouldn't have been able to accomplish what I did without such a supportive team. Our team showed great teamwork on and off the track," she added.

That teamwork earned the Bobcats an additional 369 points in the final day of competition for a total of 743, enough to propel them past rival Fort Lewis who finished with 622 points and place them on the podium for third place. Despite increasingly tougher competition the Bobcats managed to have the best showing in their history of Track Nationals. The Bobcats first competed in these nationals in 2006 when they finished fourth; last year they remained on the podium in fifth.

"The team prepared really well for this event," said Coach Brian Sheedy. "As a whole, we exceeded all expectations. It was great to see the way our athletes rallied to support one another."

The Bobcats will travel to North Georgia (Bull Mountain, Ga.) September 20-21 to compete in another mountain bike race in preparation for the upcoming USA Cycling's Collegiate Mountain Bike Nationals which will be held here in Banner Elk, October 24-26.