Monday, October 13, 2008

Season Ends on High Note for Some

The Red Hawks cycling team closed out its inaugural season in a big way at the Midwest Collegiate Cycling Conference (MWCCC) championships this weekend at Purdue University. Tiffany Seering brought home two firsts and a second for the women, while Bryan Nell captured a third and a fourth for the men.

As a team, Ripon was seventh of 16 teams in the cross country competition; sixth of 14 in the short track; and seventh of 11 in the dual slalom.

• Tiffany kicked off the Red Hawks successful weekend by taking first place in the women’s B cross country race Saturday. She followed on Sunday with a second place in the short track race and a first place in her first-ever slalom race.

The slalom course was pretty tame, basically zigzagging through a series of large trees on the side of a sledding hill. Still the bark mulch around the trees, the dry grass and the narrow chute made for some interesting action. I was confident Tiffany would do well, and I'm glad she gave it a try.

Timed solo qualifications were held before the short track race. Tiffany's time made her the top seed in the women’s B class. And after standing around for more than an hour, she defeated Andria Kroner of Murray State in the final to claim first place.

• Christa had her best performances of the season at Purdue, placing fifth in the cross country race and third in the short track. She's gone from simply finishing to finishing ahead of other racers. In fact, because the field for the women's B short track race was so small it was combined with the women's A field, and Christa bested several of the A riders.

• Bryan led the Red Hawk men with a fourth place finish in the C class cross country race. Travis Sippel of Purdue passed Bryan near the finish to claim third. He returned with another solid effort in Sunday’s short track race to lead Ripon with his third place finish.

Bryan was near the back of the pack at the start of Sunday’s race, but he maintained his composure and gradually picked off rider after rider until only two remained ahead of him. He eased himself into the race, and his patience paid off. I can't help but wonder, however, if he were more aggressive at the start if he would not have been in the number 2 spot.

• Jonathan simply didn't have a good weekend. He finished in 20th place in Saturday’s cross country race, but things got worse Sunday.

There was a small drop off from grass to a paved road on the short track course that gave Jon fits. I watched as he tumbled through an endo during a warm-up before the race. Lukcily he didn't break anything, but he left a chunk of skin on the pavement, suffering a nasty laceration on his right forearm. After some medical attention, Jon saddled up for the race. I'm pretty sure the endo experience still haunted him and he proceeded to topple twice more in the same spot. He refused to give up and remounted his steed each time. On the ensuing laps, he decided it was better to dismount for the drop off. Unfortunately on his final lap, his chain broke after the remount. He didn't think twice and picked up his bike and began to run. Jon sprinted across the finish line with bike on shoulder to edge out teammate Steven, and the pair finshed 14th and 15th, respectively.

Steven finished 25th Saturday.

For the season, Ripon finished in eighth place in the MWCCC and third amongst Division 2 schools (enrollment less than 15,000) in the conference — behind Union College of Kentucky and Michigan Technological University.

I’m very proud of the way the team performed this year. Considering the small size of our team and the fact that we had virtually no experience at the beginning of the season; they certainly surpassed my expectations. I can't say enough about how much effort this group put in this year, especially on race day. Jon's performance on Sunday is a testament to how badly this team wants to perform well.

My biggest disappointment is that Bryan and Jon will be graduating this spring. Their leadership made my foray into coaching a pleasant one.

With only three returning for next year, my biggest challenge now is to recruit some new talent. Tiffany has every intention of competing at the A level next fall. If I can pick up a few more A-level men and women, I'm confident a trip to nationals is not out of the question.

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