Bobcat Cyclists Second in Nation and Take Four Individual Titles

BANNER ELK, N.C. - The Lees-McRae Bobcats pedaled to a second place finish in the Division I Omnium for the second consecutive year at the USA Cycling Collegiate Mountain Bike Nationals, narrowly falling to defending champions Fort Lewis College of Durango, Colorado. The Bobcats also claimed four individual national titles along with nine additional podium spots at the three day event held on the campus of Lees-McRae and Sugar Mountain Resort October 24-26, 2008.

Top performers for the Bobcats include Carla Swart, who claimed the national title on the cross country event on Friday, won short track Saturday morning and then was crowned the DI Women's Omnium Champion Sunday afternoon; Chloe Jackson, who sped to gold in dual slalom; Brad Perley, who finished third in cross country and second in short track; Scott Stewart with a second in cross country and the DI Men's Omnium; and Aaron Bradford who claimed third in DI Omnium.

The Wrap Up
More than 300 cyclists from Division I and Division II schools descended upon the campus of Lees-McRae this past weekend for the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships, the second time the event has been held on the grounds of a college. Battling through mud, fog, and technically difficult courses these student athletes fought to win one of the 22 national championship crowns awarded over the course of the three day event.

Cross Country
The competition kicked off Friday morning with the DI & DII men under drizzly, gray skies remniscient of last year's event, although the grueling 4.3 mile loop through the back side of campus was in better condition. Lees-McRae rider Scott Stewart took the lead on the twenty-two mile race, with defending champion Benjamin Sonntag (Fort Lewis College) following within striking distance and LMC teammate Brad Perley sandwiching him in from behind. The race continued that way until lap four when Sonntag and Stewart began swapping leads, each taking advantage whenever the mostly single track course opened up. By the end of the fourth lap, Sonntag, riding with a broken index finger, had gained the lead for good and finished a minute ahead of LMC's Scott Stewart. Brad Perley held on to claim third.

Lees-McRae had all five riders finish in the top twelve in a dominating performance by the men. Randy Laprairie (Warren, Mich.) rode to ninth, Aaron Bradford (Auburn, Wash.) 11th, and Erick Thompson (Shoreview, Minn.) in 12th.

In men's DII it was Tristan Cowie of Brevard College (Brevard, N.C.) who claimed gold, followed by Zach Winn of Union College (Union, Barbourville, Ky.) and Logan Wetsell of Western Washington University (Bellingham, Wash.).

The women's races were shortened to three laps as the rain began to move into the area, but that did not stop junior Lees-McRae cyclist Carla Swart (Buford, Ga.) from riding to her first national title of the weekend in DI women's. Swart, who finished fourth last year in this event, was all business from the start, her determination evident on her face. Jamie Dinkins (UT-Chattanooga) finished second followed by Eszter Horanyi (University of Colorado-Boulder).

The Bobcats were well represented in this event as well. Teammates Niki Dallaire (Louisville, Ky.) pedaled to a seventh place finish, while Jo Markham (Collierville, Tenn.) and Ally Stacher (Etna, Calif.) finished ninth and tenth respectively. Kristi Henne (Plainview, Ark.) rounded out the Bobcat riders with a 16th place.

Appalachian States' Rebecca Tomaszewski pedaled to first place on a single gear bike. Melissa Marts of Colorado School of Mines finished less than 30 seconds behind to claim second, and Katherine Harris of Massachusetts Institute of Technology took her first trip to the podium with a third place in women's DII.

Short Track
Saturday morning kicked off in the mist and rain on a one-mile, rain-drenched short track course that started on a flat stretch of grass, went through the woods and over a creek. Women's DII were the first to hit the course, and Katharine Harris netted another trip to the podium, this time to the top when she defeated Rebecca Tomaszewski. Kay Sherwood of Colorado College took third.

DII men's short track saw a repeat of yesterday's top two when Tristan Cowie and Zach Winn took first and second respectively. Union College also took the third spot on the podium when Greg Gibson finished ahead of cross country's third place finisher Logan Wetsell.

With a national title in cross country already under her belt the Bobcat's Carla Swart destroyed the field finishing a full minute ahead of second place finisher Amanda Miller (Colorado State University) in the DI women's race. Eszter Horanyi took third with Niki Dallaire (LMC) claiming fourth for the Bobcats.

Markham and Stacher rode to ninth and tenth again with Henne finishing 19th in another strong showing by the Bobcat women.

The men's DI event saw fierce competition between Sontagg and Lees-McRae's Brad Perley. With Sonntag leading slightly, Perley had an incident with a tree which put Sonntag out of reach at the end of the race. The race finished with Sonntag taking the title, Perley second. Rotem Ishai (Fort Lewis College) passed Martin Kell (Pennsylvania State Unversity) in the final laps of the race to claim third. Scott Stewart finished fifth to take the final place on the podium. Bradford finished 12th, Thompson 16th and LaPrairie 24th

Downhill
Attempts to avoid the possibility of a fog delay for the USA Cycling Collegiate Downhill Championships over Sugar Mountain by planning an afternoon start instead of early morning, helped but did not entirely remove the fog as a cloud sat on top of the mountain until early afternoon. This year's downhill competition was a rigorous event as cyclists in full gear charged down the 1.2 mile course filled with drops, jumps, rocks, straight-aways and more mud.

The University of Colorado took control of the DI men's race capturing first and second with Joey Schusler in first and Brian Buell in second. Adam Morse (University of Vermont) took third in the event. The highest finisher for the Bobcats was sophomore Ben Hulse (Mooresville, N.C.), who finished eighth. Senior Aaron Bradford took 13th, Steve Solt (Emmaus, Penn.) 18th, and PJ Noto (Marlboro, N.Y.) 26th.

In women's DI it was Fort Lewis College who swept the top three spots when Emma Millar, Sage Wilderman and Alisha Gibson went 1-2-3. Bobcat downhiller Hannah Trimble (Spring, Texas) took a spot on the podium with a fourth place finish while Swart and Chloe Jackson (East Hampton, Conn.) finished eighth and ninth respectively. Proving there is power in numbers Stacher, Henne and Olivia Maurey (Daytona Beach, Fla.) took home 13th, 14th, and 15th for Lees-McRae.

Men's DII was won by Michael Thomas of Appalachian State, followed by Steve Trotter, also an App State rider. Seconds behind was Michael Carpenter of Wentworth Institute (Boston, Md.) to round out the top three in the division.

Sierra Nevada College cyclist Robyn Embrey sped down the hill for first in DII women's action putting nearly a minute between her and second place finisher Johanna Tuttle of Brevard College and third place Christen Boyer of Colorado School of Mines.

Dual Slalom
The final event of the competition crowned four national champions on Lees-McRae's dual slalom course on Sunday morning. Weston Pope (Lindsey Wilson College), Chloe Jackson (Lees-McRae College), Deider Barrick (Colorado School of Mines) and Johanna Tuttle (Brevard College) were all donned in the Stars-and-Stripes after winning their respective division's head-to-head tournament. The spectator-friendly .4-mile course on the school's campus provided an exciting finish to an intense weekend of racing.

In addition to Jackson's trek to the top of the podium the Lady Bobcats saw Trimble end 6th, Swart 7th. Maurey 9th, Henne 13th, and Stacher 16th.

Top finisher for the Bobcats on the men's side was Ben Hulse who raced to fourth place. PJ Noto ended the day with a tenth place finish in the event.

Team Omnium

Fort Lewis College narrowly surpassed host Lees-McRae College to win the Division I team omnium competition at the 2008 USA Cycling Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championships. Even fewer points separated Division II champions Appalachian State University and second-place Colorado School of Mines. The top individual scorers in both endurance and gravity events were also awarded individual omnium crowns following Sunday's dual slalom contests.

Fort Lewis College used a strong showing by its women in the final contest of the competition, the dual slalom, to leapfrog host Lees-McRae College and take home the DI team overall championship by 20 points, 698 - 678. The University of Colorado-Boulder was within striking distance, but had to settle for third while Lindsey Wilson College and the University of Vermont rounded out the top five.

"We had a lot of great individual performances with some tragedies and some victories we didn't expect," said Lees-McRae head coach Brian Sheedy. "I am very proud of the whole team. Not only was our overall performance better than we've ever had in the past against perhaps the strongest team Fort Lewis has ever had, but the team rooted, cheered and supported each other throughout the entire three-day event. Although the weather could have been better, it was workable. In fact, especially with the talented and skilled riders competing, the mud added some excitement to the short track races. On Sunday, the Dual Slalom course recovered well, allowing for a fantastic day of competition, capping off a successful three days of championship events."

The DII team race was even closer with nearby Appalachian State University edging last year's champion, the Colorado School of Mines, 585 - 575. Evenly dispersed talent was on display in DII with the top five schools finishing within 100 points.

Individual Omnium

The individual omnium crowns are awarded to the top collegiate mountain bikers who competed in both an endurance and gravity event. Eli Krahenbuhl of the University of Wyoming took home the men's individual omnium crown in DI with top finishes in all four of the weekend's races. His 272 points narrowly edged Scott Stewart of Lees-McRae who finished second amongst the weekend's most hotly contested division. Lees-McRae's Aaron Bradford finished third, despite crashing early in the day in dual slalom.

Winning a pair of national titles on the weekend and finishing in the top ten of in all four events, Carla Swart (Lees-McRae College) racked up 494 points only to narrowly defeat a talented DI women's field, which included Eszter Horanyi (University of Colorado-Boulder), Sage Wilderman (Fort Lewis College) and Jamie Dinkins (University of Tennessee-Chattanooga).

In DII Zach Winn of Union College earned a commanding win in the men's omnium title after several national title near misses. The DII women's race was the closest of the day with officials forced to exercise five tie-breakers before Johanna Tuttle (Brevard College) was awarded the title over Rebecca Tomaszewski (Appalachian State University).

For complete results, click here.

Division I Team Omnium Standings
1. Fort Lewis College 698
2. Lees-McRae College 678
3. University of Colorado-Boulder 572
4. Lindsey Wilson College 371
5. University of Vermont 336

Division II Team Omnium Final Results
1. Appalachian State Uninversity 585
2. Colorado School of Mines 575
3. Warren Wilson College 533
4. Brevard College 532
5. Union College 490

DI Men's Individual Omnium Final Results
1. Eli Krahenbuhl (University of Wyoming) 272
2. Scott Stewart (Lees-McRae College) 262
3. Aaron Bradford (Lees-McRae College) 216
4. Jean-Nicolas Enjalbert (Colorado State University) 205
5. Bryan Alders (University of Colorado-Boulder) 174

DI Women's Individual Omnium Final Results
1. Carla Swart (Lees-McRae College) 494
2. Eszter Horanyi (University of Colorado-Boulder) 422
3. Sage Wilderman (Fort Lewis College) 380
4. Jamie Dinkins (University of Tennessee-Chattanooga) 374
5. Sabina Kraushaar (Fort Lewis College) 275

DII Men's Individual Omnium Final Results
1. Zach Winn (Union College) 392
2. Matthew Williams (Warren Wilson College) 301
3. Greg Gibson (Union College) 292
4. Daniel Ennis (Brevard College) 239
5. Alex Hannah (Appalachian State University) 207

DII Women's Individual Omnium Final Results
1. Johanna Tuttle (Brevard College) 500
2. Rebecca Tomaszewski (Appalachian State University) 500
3. Melissa Marts (Colorado School of Mines) 389
4. Rachel Millsop (Union College) 347
5. Julia Tellman (Brevard College) 330

Pictured Top: Carla Swart DI Women's Individual Omnium

Pictured Bottom Upper: DI Men's Individual Omnium Stewat (l), Bradford (r)

Pictured Bottom Lower: DI Second Place at Nationals