As of last weekend, there have been just three California State High School Mountain Bike Championships. With a win in Los Olivos on May 15, the Drake High School team has won all three of those titles.
“There are many reasons why Drake High School is the perfect place,” said team director and Drake teacher Dan Freeman, who started the program in 2002.
The team was led by a win from sophomore Lucas Newcomb in the JV division. Newcomb capped off an undefeated season with a one-second win over San Rafael’s Johnny Kaufman.
“That’s an amazing accomplishment,” said Freeman.
Senior standout Sofia Hamilton led the girls squad with a third-place finish in the Varsity division. “She’s one of the top five girls in the country for her age group,” said Freeman.
Hamilton was joined on the podium by junior Mackinzie Stanley, who took fifth in the Varisty division at the race.
A talented squad with well-rounded results in the Varsity boys, JV girls, and freshman and sophomore divisions secured the top spot for the Pirates over second-place Redwood and third-place San Rafael.
“[The Marin teams] are still the 1,000 pound gorilla in the state,” said Freeman.
The team has participated in the NorCal Mountain Bike League for a number of years, but it was only three years ago that the NorCal league joined with the SoCal league for a state championship. Since then, the number of Southern California riders has grown. Still, Northern California remains dominant and within Northern California, Drake is clearly the team to beat.
Just why are the Pirates so good?
Freeman says there’s a number of reasons that mostly stem from the culture around here. “Almost every kid has a parent who has a mountain bike in the garage,” he said, which is a big boost to get kids over the hurdle of starting out on a mountain bike. Cycling is not a cheap sport, either, and San Anselmo and Fairfax are relatively well-off.
But, perhaps, most importantly, the history of mountain biking is right here in our own backyard.
Freeman said he has taught Joe Breeze’s son, and Otis Guy and Charlie Kelly’s daughters – cyclists who are all considered prominent figures in the history of the sport.
“The founding fathers are helping us fix our bikes and flats,” said Freeman.
Most important for the 44-person co-ed team is a balance of hard work and fun. It’s the girls, said Freeman, who help bring that social aspect to the team. They’ll race in the morning and then take a boombox, girls from other teams, and head off to a remote part of the course to cheer, dance, and have a good time.
“They understand this is a really fun, social outlet,” said Freeman.