May 9, 2011

Bobcats cap tremendous championship season

BANNER ELK, N.C. --- The Lees-McRae College cycling team capped an impressive season this weekend at the USA Cycling Collegiate Road Nationals, finishing second in its quest to capture the program's 11th national championship to close out the championship campaign.

Lees-McRae opened the championship season in podium fashion on the first day of the Collegiate Track Nationals on Sep. 23, when sophomore Rachel Warner (Luray, Va.) captured her first career national championship in the women's 3K pursuit time trial in her first appearance at a track event.

The Bobcats went on to finish seventh in the team omnium, paced by Warner's championship performance, a fourth-place finish in the men's team pursuit, and a sixth-place showing in the women's team pursuit.

Lees-McRae followed with a third-place performance at Mountain Bike Nationals on Oct. 17, highlighted by individual titles by Ben Hulse (Mooresville, N.C.) in the 4X and Erica Zaveta (Erwinna, Pa.) in the cross country event. Zaveta ended the weekend ranked second in the individual omnium, while Hannah Trimble (Spring, Texas) posted a pair of top-10 performances in the 4X and the downhill.

The Bobcats delivered the highlight of the season on Dec. 12, capturing the program's 10th national championship at Cyclocross Nationals, marking Lees-McRae's title in the discipline in the last five years. Carla Swart (Buford, Ga.), who tragically lost her life in a training accident in her native South Africa on Jan. 19, battled to a third-place finish in the women's race on the final day to pace the Bobcats.

Zaveta followed close behind with a fourth-place performance, while Bradford Perley (Kennebunkport, Maine) and Eric Thompson (Shoreview, Minn.) placed third and fifth, respectively, in the men's competition.

Lees-McRae continued its championship form at the Southeastern Collegiate Cycling Conference Championships on Apr. 18, capturing its second straight SECCC road title. Brian Sheedy (Rockford, Mich.) set the tone for the Bobcats on the second day, breaking free of the pack early in the men's "A" criterium and riding clear of the field for the final 45 minutes of the race en route to victory.

Rodrigo Gomez (Cancun, Mexico) finished second in the race, while Jason Marshall (Stanley, N.C.) and Wesley Rhoads (Huntington, W.Va.) took the top two spots, respectively, in the men's "B" criterium. Warner stole the show in the women's "A" criterium, finishing first ahead of teammate Cinthia Lehner (Greer, S.C.), who placed second.

The Bobcats closed the championship season this past weekend at Road Nationals, finishing second behind Marian University, which made a late charge on the final day to secure the top spot in the team omnium. Warner paced the Bobcats on the weekend with a third-place showing in the individual omnium, finishing second in Friday's road race.

Sheedy capped an impressive weekend with a fourth-place showing in the individual omnium, finishing fourth in Friday's road race after suffering a flat tire on the second lap. Teammate Zac Felpel (Willow St., Pa.) then exhibited tremendous sportsmanship, offering his back wheel to Sheedy and allowing the junior to catch the lead pack to finish fourth.

Lehner delivered the top performance of the day on Sunday for the Bobcats, finishing sixth in the criterium as Zaveta and Warner placed 12th and 14th, respectively. The Bobcats finished second in the team omnium, closing out a sensational season.

- LMC -