Written by BOB OTTO
The 16-year-old Hemet Bulldogs junior cycled a brilliant race in finishing second in the girls' varsity division of the Hog Canyon Classic held at Wildwood Canyon State Park near Yucaipa last Saturday.
Klingaman completed the 13.5 mile race in second place with a time of 1:23:37 just behind firsplace Hannah Rae Finchamp of the San Gabriel Valley Composite team who blazed through the course in 1:19:05.
Klingaman said she wasn't too disappointed since Finchamp is a nationally recognized cyclist.
And there's the team part. By finishing second, she helped the Bulldogs reach the top spot in Division 1 team standings: Hemet finished first with 3,957 points, outpacing second place Woodcrest Christian of Riverside (3,827), and third-place Yucaipa (3,780).
"You have to dig deep and go for it," Klingaman said. "I'm always thinking about how I can help my team and what position I've got and how it will benefit the team. (But) it is an individual sport, and I give it my all and push myself as hard as I can."
This was the first time a high school mountain biking competition of this magnitude was held at the 900-acre Wildwood Canyon State Park. Klingaman said she liked the course with its steep climbs, hairpin turns, narrow and winding dirt trails that snake up into the hills, and suddenly plunging dowhills into the canyons below.
"It had quite a bit of climbing, but I liked it," she said. "High school courses are usually more level. The downhill was the most challenging for me because I attacked the uphill and used the downhill for recovery. I lost some time because of that."
igh school mountain biking, now in its fourth year, is governed by the SoCal Cycling League. At the Hog Canyon Classic, about 275 cyclists from teams reaching as far north as Bakersfield to the southern tip of the state, took part in eight divisions: girls' and boys' varsity; junior girls and boys; sophomore girls and boys, and freshman girls and boys.
Hemet athletes performed well in all divisions. In boys' varsity, Brandon Kirkham placed sixth (1:28:47), and Joel Turner finished ninth (1:32:37) in four laps that covered 18 miles. In JV girls, Katie Shawver (1:03:33) was fifth, and Emma Mayen took 15th in 1:32:35. In JV boys, Ryan Warrell claimed fourth (1:07:21), and Kenny Valdez eighth (1:10:47).
Sophomore girls found Molly Porteous racing to a fifth place finish (1:12:30), while the boys had Christian Corrales in 15th (1:28:05), Blake Cerini 18th (1:30:13), and Daniel Rhoades 21st (1:32:37).
But the freshmen girls really tore up the course in their twlap race placing four cyclists in the top-15: Taking top honors was Alexis Marques in 1:00:06. Hayleigh Kirkham finished second in 1:02:37. And Arcelia Mercado (1:06:08) was fourth, Brianna Miller tenth (1:18:47), and Sadie Bonnell twelfth (1:22:00).
The freshman boys also raced two laps in a very strong field. Zachary Baker finished third in 0:46:59, Randy Graham eighth (0:49:54), Aiden Young tenth (0:50:57), Christian Klug twelfth (0:55:06), Levi Barron sixteenth (0:56:55), and Noah Jefferson eighteenth (0:57:01).
In the cycling season's early going, Hemet has done well. In February, the Bulldogs took second at Vail Lake Resort in Temecula with 3,854 points. And again it was a close, three-way battle with Woodcrest Christian, which finished first with 3,877 points, and Yucaipa third at 3,743.
Klingaman had a great race at Vail Lake as well. But again, Finchamp took first in 1:18:20, with Klingaman coming in second at 1:21:03. She relishes the challenge of chasing after Finchamp and gives her rival the credit she's due. "She's a national cycling champion and an awesome competitor," Klingaman said.
The mountain biking season continues with events scheduled March 25, April 15, and May 6, culminating with the state championship May 20. Klingaman said she and her teammates are working hard to keep Hemet at the top of the standings.
She devotes nearly every day to her sport. She has a personal trainer guiding and motivating her toward greater strength and endurance. And she cycles four days during the week for one to two hours, and eight to 10 hours on the weekends.
Why all this grueling work? Well, there's the possibility of a college cycling scholarship, and dream-of-dreams, a professional career. But most of all she says, "I love the adrenaline and the way it makes me feel. I just want to go as far as I can. If (cycling) takes me further, I would love to go further."
To learn more about high school mountain biking, and the latest individual and team results, visit www.socaldirt.org.