Whittling down a loaded roster of talent from 75 down to 19 was a tough but enviable task for the Fort Lewis College mountain bike team.
The Fort Lewis College cycling team took 75 riders to the Rocky Mountain Collegiate Cycling Conference championships last weekend at Angel Fire Resort in New Mexico. Athletes competed in endurance events cross country and short-track cross country as well as gravity events downhill and dual slalom, as FLC claimed nine medals and the championship trophy.
“We’re getting so many kids from all over the country, and it makes us proud that we’ve developed a program that attracts all these student-athletes,” FLC Cycling director Dave Hagen said in a phone interview with The Durango Herald. “They work hard and are very dedicated, and it really shows.”
Hagen and an elite group of coaches had to select from that group a maximum of 10 men and 10 women for the 2016 USA Cycling Collegiate National MTB Championships to be contested Oct. 21-23 in Snowshoe, West Virginia. While decisions were tough, it’s a problem most coaches would love to have going into nationals.
Wednesday, the team made its roster official. Representing the men will be Joseph Barry, Joe Crosby, Stephan Davoust, Bryce Hermanussen, Levi Kurlander, Jaren Lockwood, Henry Nadell, Matthew Nelson, Cole Paton and Michael Sampson.
The women’s team will consist of Lacey Andersen, Ellen Campbell, Danielle Emter, Carley Endersbe, Libbey Endersbe, Kelsay Lundberg, Anna Schehrer, Beccah Sheppard and McCauley Smith.
“It’s horrible having to pick,” Hagen said. “So many kids deserve to go. We could almost field two teams for nationals and be competitive with both.”
The team will is coached by Hagen, Elke Brustaert, Chad Cheeney, Brit Clawson, Phil Cowan and Lucas Lemaire. The team mechanic at nationals will be Joey Thompson.
“We’re fortunate to have all these coaches who bring a lot of passion and good energy to the program,” Hagen said. “They’re great communicators and love the kids. The kids love them back, and that’s important.”
The team entered the season ranked first and is in pursuit of its 23rd national title. Marian University once again figures to be a top competitor along with Brevard College.
A strong endurance team will highlight the men’s action for FLC. Nadell is coming off a conference championship in cross country and a fourth-place finish in short track. FLC swept the men’s cross country podium, as Paton finished second and Davoust third. Kurlander also took sixth, as FLC riders earned seven of the top-10 spots. Paton was second in short track, while Kurlander was fifth and Sampson was sixth.
The women’s endurance team is led by Campbell, who claimed third in both events at the conference championships. The Endersbe women are also top-10 threats, as is Lundberg.
The women’s endurance team will have a well-known foe at nationals in Emily Schaldach of the University of Colorado. Schaldach is from Durango and won the conference championship in both cross country and short track.
The women’s gravity team fared slightly better than the men at Angel Fire. Led by Smith’s gold medal times in downhill and dual slalom, the Skyhawks will look for an individual national champion in the event in West Virginia. Andersen also earned third in dual slalom last week, and she also finished sixth in downhill. Emter was fourth in downhill, while Scherer, Sheppard and Libbey Endersbe all claimed top-10 results.
The men’s downhill team is led by Crosby and Hermanussen, who earned top-10 finishes last week. Sampson took fifth in dual slalom, and Hermanussen was eighth to double up on top-10 results.
Riders such as Davoust, Libbey Endersbe and Sampson will be key in the team omnium standings as crossover riders who can compete in endurance and gravity events. The more riders FLC can put out in each event, the better its chance at a title.
“They are mainly endurance riders but just all-around great bike riders, too,” Hagen said. “They can do it all.”