Although the forecast indicated impending wetness, May 13, 2006, turned out to be a perfect day for mountain bike racing.  Located at the beautiful Kittatinny Valley State Park in rural Andover, NJ, Team Bulldog/Campmor held the first ever New Jersey State High School and Middle School Mountain Bike Championships.  Although Team Bulldog has an eleven year history of race promotion, and mountain bike racing in NJ has been going on for almost 20 years, there had yet to be a championship of these sorts…until 2006.  Held on 4 different courses (with sections that overlapped), the event offered Middle School A (experienced) and B (novice) Races and High School A and B Races, and both girls and boys fields were offered for each race. 

The day kicked off with the Middle School B event at 9:00 am.  These young cyclists battled it out for 25 minutes of intense racing.  When the dust settled, the B boys’ championship went to Peter Giannini of Glen Meadows, NJ.  The podium was rounded out by Tyler Karnheisl of Dingman, PA, and Kevin Acker, also from Glen Meadows, NJ, in 2nd and 3rd, respectively.  Due to Karnheisl residing in Pennsylvania, the 2nd place state ranking was awarded to Acker, and the 3rd place state ranking to Charlie Nun, from Atlantis Prep, NJ.  The B girls’ champion was Jennifer Stickle of Immaculate Conception, NJ, riding for Skylands Cycling.  Incidently, Jennifer comes from a racing family and her dad is a promoter in the Campmor H2H Regional Mountain Bike Series. 

The Middle School A Race was lightly contested, unfortunately, but those that did compete battled it out for 30 minutes.  Cam Mancuso from Glen Meadows, NJ, riding for Skylands Cycling took home the top honors and second place went to Christopherson Cortes from Hopatcong, NJ, riding for Team Bulldog. 

Next, the High School B Racers rolled to the line to throw down for 35 minutes with a significant amount of climbing per lap.  In the boys’ race, Dillon Plunkett from Columbia High School, NJ, was crowned the champion.  Two racers from Monmouth County traveled the distance to make it up on the box; 2nd place went to Ryan Mirce from Red Bank Catholic, and 3rd place was awarded to Chris Garofalo, a student at Monmouth Regional High School.  The High School B Girl’s Race was dominated by racers from the Kinnelon High School Mountain Bike Team from the gun.  Erin Oebernardi crossed the line shortly before her teammate, Meredith Kempson. 

Finally, onto the premier event:  High School A.  With ages from 15-18 and varying riding and racing ability, the 45 minute contest would prove to be very fast and demanding.  In the girls’ field, Madeline McGarrity, from Lenape High School riding for Team Bulldog was crowned as the first NJ State High School Girls Champion.  Maddie recently began racing and is progressing to be one of the top young female racers in New Jersey.  The boys’ race sorted itself out immediately, with Nick Bruno from Indian Hills High School taking the lead on the first lap.  Nick would hold this lead and slowly increase his gap over second place to bring the state championship to Inidan Hills High School.  Second and 3rd looked like it could go to either Ryan Sarka of Sloatsburg, NY, riding for Team Bulldog or Erik Kristenson of Sussex, NJ, riding for Skyalnds Cycling.  These two young men have banged bars over the past year on their mountain and cyclocross bikes and have pushed each other to get fast and fit.  Ryan was able to slowly pull away from Erik and take second.  Erik held on to third, but was the second NJ resident to finish.  Crossing the line in fourth, but as the third NJ resident was Chris Null from Warren Hills, NJ. 

Following the Middle School and High School Races, we held kids’ events, with racers from 5 to 12 years old, separated by gender and grade.  These racers were truly impressive on their Barbie and Star Wars bikes, riding through legitimate single-track, and turning faster lap times than we ever thought possible.  The look of determination on these young champions’ faces and the cheers the crowds were absolutely inspiring! 
This was such a wonderful event and Team Bulldog/Campmor is looking forward to holding it again next year.  Help to do your part to get more kids involved in the great sport of mountain biking!  For more information and a complete list of results, visit: www.teambulldog.com. 

Submitted by Brian Lariviere, Team Bulldog President/Manager