NorCal High School Cycling League and COVID-19

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What’s Happening at the NorCal High School Cycling League in Light of COVID-19?
Wow, what a different world we are living in today. COVID-19 is affecting the entire world, and things are changing temporarily and permanently. This is a historic time for humanity. Aim to be on the positive side of history.

My name is Hailey Childress, and I am a WTB Gravelier and the Program Production Assistant at the ​NorCal High School Cycling League​ . I know our league name is a mouthful, so, for short, we call it the NorCal League. For those of you who don’t know of the NorCal League, we are a non-profit organization, and our mission is to build a strong body, mind, and character through the inclusive sport of high school cycling. What does that mean? We produce fun and competitive high school mountain bike races and camps. We are the original league in NICA, which now has 31 leagues nationwide. We have 102 high school mountain bike teams all throughout Northern California. In the league, we have 2,000 “spandex warriors,” as our Stoke Capitan, Araan Harris, likes to call our student-athletes and over 1,000 rad, dedicated, volunteer coaches.

I started working for the NorCal League last spring during the 2019 race season as a member of the seasonal race crew. What a rad and moving experience to be a part of; I was hooked. In November, last fall, I was asked to join the team that works behind the scenes-year round- putting on a killer race scene, and so much more: this was a life-changing opportunity for me. I left my seven-year career as a Registered Dental Assistant and hit the ground running in the direction of my passion.

Last fall was the start of our busy season with two fundraising events, Adventure Revival and CycleFest, which were very successful. All of us at the NorCal League were pumped as winter neared its end because that meant race season was about to start for us and over two thousand student-athletes. We started our season with an incredible amount of support from locals in Redding, CA, where our first race was held. If you haven’t been lucky enough to ride your bike in Redding, you’re missing out. Check out Swasey Recreation Area next time you find yourself there. There are 270 miles of dirt heaven in Swasey: seriously.

Okay, back to race one, ​Swasey Shred,​ as the cogs were turning and everything was falling into place for the race to kick-off our 19th year, COVID-19 began to rear it’s nasty head as we arrived at the venue for the race weekend. Vanessa Hauswald, ​League Director​ , and Robert Ramirez, ​Race Director​ , were faced with deciding to continue with the race just days before the kick-off of the race season. Our serious attention to risk management, and advice from local, Shasta County Health Department officials, helped them to determine that the race was a-go with several precautions put in place. As we returned from race one, circumstances surrounding COVID-19 made a drastic turn and not in the direction we were all hoping for.
Jumping to the present, the NorCal League has sadly canceled races two through four. In all of NorCal’s history, only one race has been canceled previously. All of us are holding on by a thread, like a frayed brake cable ready to snap, to the last two races of the season. Disappointingly, there’s not much hope in sight. All sanctioned team practices have been postponed until further notice, and that is not just for NorCal, but for all NICA leagues.

The chances are high that our summer programs will likely be canceled or postponed. With all of these major changes for our 2020 schedule, we have been brainstorming on ways to keep our kids, coaches, and sponsor engaged. I have created a “Stay Stoked Challenge” with the help of Vanessa. On a side note, Vanessa Hauswald is the most positive and supportive person I have ever worked with and for. If there is anyone who can turn a bad situation into a good one, it’s her. Anyway, this will be a social media challenge, which we will be rolling out in a couple of weeks or so, that will pull pro cyclists, coaches, and “spandex warriors” together. We will be posting a video every few days of how we are staying stoked during these tough and isolating times. If you’d like to check it out, you can follow us on Instagram @norcalleague or Facebook at ​The NorCal High School Cycling League​ . Keeping the stoke alive during the season has always been our mission, and we aren’t going to let COVID-19 stop us now.

Outside of socially connecting through our social media platforms, we have been considering ways to keep funding rolling in. Like everyone else, long term financial stability is something that may become a scary situation, and we are implementing plans to avoid this and keep the NorCal League magic alive and well. Our Administrative Assistant, and designer of “cute shit” (as some of us in the office say), Erica Gorden, has presented a great plan to organize a virtual fundraising ride. This will virtually be accomplished either by riders on trainers or out in the real world riding solo to comply with CDC guidelines. Anyone who wishes to participate is welcome. Plans for this are still rough, but we hope to be able to present publically soon. Erica is always full of great ideas! We will also be launching an online shopping site for cute NorCal shit :) which, with your support, will also help us out through this transition.

Once we enter the light at the end of the tunnel, the NorCal League will host a bike festival at one of our favorite race venues. Race Director, Coco, and just about every kids’ favorite mentor is way more than excited about this, and he wants you to get on his level. This festival is our way of bringing our student-athletes, coaches, families, and staff back together to be reunited and participate in a bike-centric event. After all, not only do we all love each other like family, but we also love bikes. We are aiming for the end of summer and will be adjusting our timeline if needed.

As far as our sponsors, we want to share as much love with them as possible. Giving credit to the ones that support and fund us is very important. We will have to get creative and represent them differently than we usually do. We may not have snow fencing lining a finish line with their perfectly placed brands on it or a podium backdrop with their logos behind our top spandex warriors. However, we will still be representing them in different and online ways until this pandemic ends.

Outside of our new 2020 projects, we are working on our end-of-2020, existing fundraising projects, and getting a head start on our 2021 projects. We are anticipating a normal race season for 2021, and I know not only are our student-athletes and coaches looking forward to a full race season, but I know the rest of the world is looking forward to getting back to balance, too. Remember, keep riding your bike (solo), love one another, stay safe, stay home, and STAY STOKED!

Hailey Childress 
WTB Gravelier
Program Production Assistant
Photos By: George Garibay and Pamala Palma


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