22 of 32 headed to state championships
by Than Acuff
It came down to the final rider on the final lap of the final race but, in the end, one final pass made all the difference as the Crested Butte Devo high school mountain bike team finished third at the conference finals Saturday, October 7 in Nathrop. They edged out Columbine by just five points to make their first trip as a team onto the podium.
“Everybody rode their hearts out,” says coach Torrey Carroll. “They got to go on the podium as a team, which is awesome. They’ve worked so hard, they deserved it.”
The Crested Butte team was sitting in third place heading into the conference finals with a 200-point buffer over fourth place but with several things working against the team, the final spot on the podium hung in the balance.
The stretch of rain during the two weeks leading up to the conference race curtailed training days for the team and the October Break and SAT testing had cut the team down from 32 riders to 22 riders. Furthermore, the course at Nathrop is not the best course for the Crested Butte riders.
“There’s not a lot of places to pass and not a lot of uphills so it doesn’t really suit our strengths,” explains Carroll.
The day got off to a solid start for Crested Butte with the JV girls. Emily Knight opened placing 18th for her best result of the season. Sophomore rider Olivia Gordon then came through to finish second for the fourth time in a row this year and then Olivia Wilson led the charge for the freshmen girls in the next race. Despite crashing twice during the race, Wilson rallied to finish in eighth place. Teammate Lily Hanna took 16th, Nori Veit finished in 18th after clipping a tree and going down hard and Emma Jean Lovett placed 25th.
Then the boys lined up for their set of races opening with the JV boys. Dylan Alagna was determined to climb the ranks at the conference finals posting the fastest lap of the entire team on his first lap of the race. While he eventually succumbed to the blistering pace, he still remained high in the pack to finish in 11th.
“It was maybe a little bit too fast to start and a little past what he could hold on to for all three laps,” says Carroll.
Meanwhile, Finn Wilson and Dane De Frates were tasked with the job of passing as they continue to get poor start spots due to missing races earlier in the season.
“They just had to be patient when there was nowhere to pass and save their energy for when there was,” says Carroll.
The two riders did just that, climbing their way through the pack to finish in 19th and 20th place, respectively.
Gus Bullock had the top result among the freshmen boys as he posted his second top-ten finish in a row, placing ninth and the stage was set for the final race, with varsity and sophomore boys racing at the same time with varsity having to go for four laps.
The sophomore crew succumbed to the missed training days and course layout. Robby Oberling, Josiah Tunkey and Marko Alling all made the top 10 at the previous race but finished 11th, 12th and 16th in Nathrop.
“I think it was because we lost some training and the course,” says Carroll.
That merely set the stage though for the riveting finish. Three of the four varsity racers for Crested Butte were missing, leaving it to JC Patterson to carry the team colors. Up to the minute scoring allowed Carroll to watch the numbers come in and when Patterson headed out for his fourth and final lap, Crested Butte was sitting in fourth place as a team in the overall conference standings.
“I knew if he could just pass one person on the final lap, that would do it,” says Carroll.
Patterson did just that, making one pass on the last lap to give Crested Butte the points to edge out Columbine in the final conference standings and take third place in the conference.
“I knew it’d be close,” says Carroll. “I just didn’t think it would be that close. The cards were stacked against us so I was pleased. Given the circumstances, the kids did their best and it ended on a really good note.”
Patterson also punched his ticket to the state championships, making for a grand total of 22 Crested Butte riders headed to the big show.
Now, it’s up to the kids as the team has a week off from formal practices during the October Break before returning to workouts as they prepare for the state championships on Sunday, October 22 in Eagle.
“I just want them to ride at least four times for an hour or more during the break,” says Carroll. “The last week will mostly just be maintenance, tapering and resting. We’re not going to gain any speed or fitness in the last week.”