Previous NorCal League Award Winners

Every year, the NorCal High School Cycling League asks registered student-athletes, volunteers, and coaches to nominate their colleagues for a few NorCal League Awards. These awards are not based on athletic performance, but rather on a multitude of other attributes that makes one an incredible teammate, competitor, coach, or team. 

NorCal Achievement, Nathan Agan, Salinas High Cowboys

“Receiving the NorCal Achievement Award is such an honor and means so much to me. Having close connections with my team before high school gave me a great sense of my strengths and weaknesses. Throughout these last 4 years, I was able to learn the dynamics of racing at a high level from older riders, and was able to later share that knowledge with my teammates and competitors. Though I have always been competitive and have loved chasing the top spot of the podium, my favorite part of this league is the comradery shared between all athletes. Thank you so much for an amazing 4 years, NorCal League!”

Coach of the Year, Christy Smith, Hayward Composite

“After many years on basic 10-speeds, I finally got my first road bike in my 20’s, after years of commuting and eventually road racing for the Thirsty Bear Cycling Team my boys started to show an interest in mountain biking. That is when we found the Oakland Composite team. During that first year coaching for them I had a lot of support and encouragement to launch the Hayward Composite team. A few of the other families were on board to come along and we had commitment from coaches to kick off our 1st year. Our team supports both middle and high school and is now 5 years old. Cycling has been a big part of my life, and I’m happy to be able to give back to the cycling community coaching and managing a team for NICA. I truly believe in #morekidsonbikes and hope those adventures, races, camping weekends together help them find a love of cycling. I’ve had amazing memories from riding, I’ve met amazing riders, pedaled through stressful times, seen beautiful places while riding and found a ‘cycling family’ that I love in both road and mountain bike riding.”

Best Sportsmanship, Ava Scott, Redwood High School

“I was really surprised and so honored to win the NorCal Best Sportsmanship award! As the only Redwood racer in my category, I started the season thinking that my races would be lonely. They weren’t. I met so many awesome girls from other teams, who love mountain biking just as much as I do, that it was more like hanging out with friends. I was excited to see them at every race, they motivated me to race faster and better, and we celebrated all our accomplishments together. Even though we wore different team jerseys, we were still supportive of each other and had so much respect for each other. I can’t wait to ride with all of them again next year. I am grateful for the amazing community that high school mountain biking has given me. Thanks to my tireless coaches, supportive teammates, the riders from other teams who started as competitors and became my friends, my parents who drove me to all these far-flung races, and especially NorCal for making this fun, inclusive, supportive community happen!”

Best Sportsmanship, Parker Simpson, East County Shred

“I am currently a Junior and this is my second year of racing. This league has really taught me the value of having good friends and meeting new people. I really love cheering on teammates and competitors alike. I was so honored to receive the Best Sportsmanship Award this year. It made me realize just how important it is to keep spreading joy to others. Thank you! I have already made many new friends through NorCal and can’t wait to make more next year, as we shred with NICA!”

Soul Rider, Isabella Caulfield, Oakland Composite
“Mountain biking is important to me and being part of a team has been a nice way to make friends and also ride with other girls. Oakland Composite has such encouraging and supportive coaches and teammates. I’m glad to be part of such a good community.
Best Sportsmanship, Colton Creath, Tam High
“Hi, I’m Colton and I am a sophomore at Tam High. When I am out racing, my biggest source of energy is from seeing friends, family, and people I don’t even know cheering me on. So when I’m watching my peers racing I want to give them the same treatment they give me. NICA races are easily a highlight of my year and the environment is so fun. I’m so grateful to be a part of this community and am looking forward to racing next year.”
Sierra Paliaga, GRiT Advocate, Humboldt Composite

“Hi, I’m Sierra and I’ve been riding with Humboldt Composite for three years now. I love planning GRiT events to get more girls on bikes—everything from scavenger hunts to mechanic clinics to movie nights to fun rides and more. It makes me so happy to see the increase in girls mountain biking each year!! Thank you to all of my role models and amazing fellow NorCal GRiT riders! 🤗”

Tegan Jenkins, Soul Rider, North State Composite
“This is my first year riding with North State Composite and the NICA league, and I absolutely love my coaches and teammates. I remember my first day…. I was so nervous, not only to ride the trails but to participate in an individual sport. I have always played team sports, so this was a first for me! My fear was overcome as I challenged myself each day and made new friends. I had a couple rough falls and even cracked a frame. But that did not stop me. I began to find myself and enjoy my newfound freedom outside in nature. I got to ride the most idyllic trails around Northern California and push myself beyond my comfort zone. I can’t wait until next season.”
Bella Ferry, NorCal Achievement, Hangtown Composite
“Hi! My name is Bella Ferry, and I am a graduating Senior from the Hangtown Composite mountain bike team. I was introduced to biking at a young age because my older sister also raced in NorCal, and my uncle is the head coach of Cycling Development (which runs all of the teams in my area). However, it never interested me that much, as I was always involved in other sports, mainly gymnastics, which I did for about nine years. When I began biking freshman year, I had no idea the amazing impact it would have on every aspect of my life. Being able to be a part of this team has helped me so much throughout high school and has given me the ability to make some of my closest friends. I was given the opportunity to be the team captain my senior year, and I loved being able to be an example and help my team in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise. Receiving this award came as a shock to me, and I am so grateful to be recognized for this. I love my team and I love giving back to them for all they have given me. Thank you to my teammates for making being your captain so rewarding, I can’t wait to see you all excel in the years to come. Thank you to my coaches for always believing in me and helping me get to where I am now. And thank you to Cycling Development and NorCal for making this all possible!”
Team Spirit, El Cerrito

“El Cerrito is thrilled to be named as the recipient of the Team Spirit Award for 2023. This year, the team has worked hard to be about stoke, inclusivity, and community spirit, whether that‘s through the fun video recaps of the races on our Instagram channel, the growth of GRiT riders on our team, or our fun costume planning for the races. We also made strides to leave a positive impact on the communities in which we race, such as by organizing a fundraiser at the Fort Ord event to benefit the local towns affected by flooding. We work hard, play hard, and try to lift up the whole mtb community in the process. We are so proud of all our riders and how far they‘ve come this season, and are immensely thankful to our coaches, families, and supporters for a great year.”

Coach of the Year, John Vahlberg, Black Mountain Composite

I’m really honored to be given a Coach of the Year award, it’s been really fun to start a team in 2016 with only 2 riders and be a part of it over 8 seasons to where it is today at 60+ awesome riders! I started the team so that the 2 kids would be able to participate in the league, and was new to mountain biking when I started, but I have learned a ton and absolutely loved working with all the kids and all the parents and volunteers and coaches who are the real heroes. It’s been such a privilege to work together and build community with such awesome people. There would be no team without the great people who all pitch in together to make it happen! A special shout out to my wife Christy and my 3 boys (all NorCal alums) who put in a ton of work and were all key to making it happen. I’m moving to Spokane this summer so this was my last season and unfortunately the front yard pump track will have to go (ride it while you can!), and I’m really going to miss the race weekends with all the kids, so getting team 2nd (and 4th!) at championships plus this award was a really nice way to close out my 9 season NICA career. I’ll be back for visits though, and will stay involved with Black Mountain. Thank you NorCal!!”

Most Supportive Teammate, Carson Snyder, Spartans Composite

“It was so great to have a full season this year, getting to be around all the teams is always such a great experience. Getting the supportive teammate award surprised me, I always love getting cheered on by my teammates and coaches so I try to make sure other riders get that experience and I always try to yell and cheer on everyone I can because I know everyone can use a boost.”

Most Supportive Teammate, Sophia Woehl, San Francisco Composite

Hi, I am a senior and ride for San Francisco Composite. I have raced with the NorCal Leauge all four years of high school, and I feel so honored to have received the most supportive teammate award! I love racing mountain bikes and the stoke that everyone in the league has. I think my karaoke mic and speaker, posters, and my enthusiasm for cheering people on helped me win, but I was happily surprised! I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of a community like this, and I am excited for future fun times on my bike!”

Most Improved Rider, Maria Samartin, Terra Linda
“Hey! I’m Maria Samartin and current senior at Terra Linda Hight School. I’m a part of the mountain biking club/team at my school. I’ve been mountain biking for just four months now and was gracious enough to be have won the Most Improved Rider award by my team. I was so shocked to receive the award despite taking a month off riding because of an injury I experienced on a ride. Nonetheless, I was so happy to have received the award and told my friend and family as soon as I found out. Additionally, I was proud to have worked hard and stayed consistent to have won that title. I’m so grateful to not only have found a loving and supportive community that I’m now a part of, but also a lifelong passion that benefits me in so many ways. I couldn’t be more thankful for what mountain biking has done for me. Thank you to my couches who pushed me, my friends for the group rides, and the NorCal organization for supporting me.”
Coach of the Year, Kelly Haight, North State Composite

My NICA commitment began four years ago at the first race of the season with a 2 mph crash, an ambulance ride and bruised ego. But a little thing like a showing-off accident didn’t keep me from taking on the Team Director role two years later for the exponentially growing North State Composite team in Chico, a role I love and in which I will continue indefinitely. Why do I think I received Coach of the Year Award? Honestly- I believe that our 80 athletes and families are so incredibly happy with our amazing coaches and the overall success and joy of our season, they just wrapped up their love in me. And, well, I might the loudest cheerleader on the trails— for MY team, and for YOURS. Yes, I’m the one screaming, “Let’s GOOOO (fill in team name)! Yewwww!” next to your grandma at Six Sigma. The stoke of the kids and families in NorCal is tangible and contagious. And our kids need us to be cheerleaders. Woot!”

Most Supportive Teammate, Davis B, Yosemite Composite

I was surprised that I received my award, but it was a great way to finish an awesome season. I’m so glad I got to spend this year racing and practicing with a great group of people. I’d like to say thank you to all of my coaches for making it possible for our team to have a successful season. “

Most Improved Rider, Ava Murakami, Berkeley High School Mountain Bike Team

“Hello! Thank you so much for this opportunity! 

My name is Ava Murakami, and I just finished my first season on the Berkeley High School mountain biking team. To my surprise, at the semi-championships this year, I received the award for the most improved rider. I think that I have seen growth in not only my riding speed, but my riding mentality. This year was my first time ever on a mountain bike, and I entered pretty wary of the whole situation. I took some tumbles every practice, but my teammates and coaches always helped me get back up again, and I rode with a smile on my face. I had no idea how much my mind would play into my riding. I find that when I tell myself I can do something, it is far more likely to happen. I have gained skills, confidence, and a wonderful new community in the Berkeley High team. It’s been such a joy to ride with and be inspired by such wonderful people. I 100% would not have received this award without my amazing friends and coaches. I am already looking forward to next season!! Love ya BHS MTB :))”
Best Sportsmanship, Maya Riley, Archie Williams

This is was my fourth and final year with NorCal. I’ve had so much fun over the years and have loved learning how to race. It’s always interesting to see the entire venue unfold and see the sheer size of the league. It’s amazing how many people we are. Thank you, NorCal for allowing us to have this space to push ourselves. It’s been a blast.”

NorCal Achievement Award, Nicolas Goumas, San Francisco Composite

“I’m so grateful to be part of the NorCal community and am honored to receive this award. Thank you to SF Composite coaches, teammates, and parents who have supported me throughout my four years on the team, bringing the stoke and encouraging me to achieve my personal best.  NorCal has been a huge, formative part of my life and I can’t wait to pay it forward by continuing to grow and support the league.

Coach of the Year, Briana Forgie, St. Helena Thunderbirds
“I was completely floored by this award. I coach with many greats, and I’m so honored to be a part of this dynamic and inspiring league. I’m so appreciative of the group of coaches that I work with, and my team is second to none! This award gives merit to the fact that you don’t have to be the fastest rider or most accomplished mountain biker to be an exceptional coach. I show up for my team. I give them my enthusiasm, positive encouragement, and work hard on the communication and gratitude to the coaches, parents and students so that everyone feels that sense of belonging. I push hard on the fun factor and all my students know that they’ll never be asked to do something they aren’t ready for. With that said, I’m also all about pushing comfort zones and asking them to suspend their disbelief of what they can do. My students often hear me say that we all have so much more to tap into than we realize. Most importantly, I work hard on coaching them to be good humans. The world needs more people who believe in each other and believe in themselves. This team has given me more than I can ever give back, but I’ll keep trying!”  
Coach of the Year, Darin Jesberg, Modesto

Humbled and very honored to receive this award, I owe this success to my team and fellow coaches though. After starting our team in 2019, then navigating our way through the pandemic, our team grew stronger, larger, and “funner”. Being a part of the NorCal family and leading our team has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. I look forward to many more years of riding, racing, and enjoying life on the trails with our team and the NorCal League. Go Modesto Dust Devils!


Darin is an avid outdoor enthusiast who has been riding and racing mountain bikes for over thirty years. A passionate advocate for the sport, he is involved in a number of local trail advocacy and mountain biking organizations and initiatives. 

Darin is currently a Level 3 coach and a team director. 

Most Supportive Teammate, Cate Flowers, El Cerrito

Hello! I’ve been mountain biking since my sophomore year and it has been wonderful to finish out my senior season with this award! I absolutely love the atmosphere at all of the norcal races and within my team of support and love that you can definitely feel from the cheering. I was a team captain this year and had the best time getting to know the new riders and making memories as a team. I love screaming support at races and making every practice or event into an adventure where everyone has a good time! Receiving this award was definitely a surprise and I’m honored that my teammates thought of me. I’m so grateful to be a part of the mountain biking community that is so full of support for everyone! 

Best Team Spirit, Napa Rebobs
In 2022 the Rebobs found their “voice” with the addition of  our now infamous, “Rebob Call”.  This crazy little tool, introduced by our DEVO coach, Dave, energized and elevated every member of our team of 6-12 graders from schools across the Napa Valley,. We smile and laugh as riders, parents and supporters embrace the “CAW!” and the absolute blast that riding and racing mountain bikes together provides.


Our Team has never been about podiums, our focus has always been about safety, progression and most importantly, fun rides and activities that help each rider find their inner Rebob drive and confidence… of course, we’ve got some really competitive folks and work with all of our riders to help them find calm confidence and challenge them with feats of strength, climbing challenges and technical master sections during practices and field trips.
We are honored to be recognized by NorCal with the “ Team Spirit Award”, and are looking forward to even more team spirit and enthusiasm next season and beyond! CAW! CAW! CAWWWWWWWWW!
– Thank you from every member of the Rebobs

2021 Award Winners

Soul Rider, South Conference Enzo Sapojnikoff, Woodside Beasts

“If I had to sum up my season, I’d say that I stayed positive and focused on the fun. That allowed me to make some incredible friends, and get a lot closer with my awesome teammates and fellow racers. It also allowed me to eat a lot of Denny’s pancakes and breakfast burritos, which helped keep the stoke high and the wheels rolling. This was a rad season, and I’m beyond hyped for the next one!”

Coach of the Year- North Conference Sean Robertson, Humboldt Composite

“This season has been incredible. Not only because of our results, but more because real growth occurred in our team. We went from 13 to 28 riders, with 17 regularly racing. We incorporated tempo endurance workouts and added a core strength day. Our coaches all grew, taking on all aspects of our program and dramatically improving it with enthusiasm and vibrant energy. That segues to my thoughts on this award, it was a shock because I have had to step back this year for work-related issues and do less than I have in prior years. This award is for our team coaches who have made this team a tremendous community asset and visible manifestation of the NICA and NorCal League mission – to build better humans. Thanks.”

Coach of the Year-South Conference Nick Hoeper-Tomich, Berkeley High School

“It’s been a long road and I am truly humbled to be recognized for this award. Year after year, season after season I have strived to create a cohesive team built on the values of inclusion, fun, and respect–respect for your teammates and fellow mountain bikers, respect for the trails we ride, and respect for the natural world we live in. Berkeley High mountain biking would not be what it is today without the tireless support of our volunteers, ride leaders, coaches, and my wife, and coach, Elise. I am truly surrounded by great people.”

Best Sportsmanship, South Conference Raffa Motomura, San Francisco Composite

“This season has been my favorite season so far, and I really enjoyed the team dynamic, which was so supportive to everyone on the team. I have seen so many acts of kindness from many different people, from small things like giving water to someone who had ran out, to people giving their bike for another person to be able to ride.”

Best Sportsmanship-North Conference Riley Mullen, A-Team

“Thanks for another fun season! It’s been a great year of working hard, setting goals, and overcoming challenges. The best part of the season was making friends with teammates and other athletes I raced with. I was really surprised and honored to receive the sportsmanship award. Thanks to the whole mountain bike community for setting great examples of good sportsmanship for me to follow and pass along.”

NorCal Achievement, South Conference Brian Kalcic, Black Mountain Composite

“Racing for the past four years has by far been the highlight of my high school experience. It has been amazing to be in such a great community doing what I love the most. I am truly honored to receive this award and I am grateful to everyone who supported me along the way!”

NorCal Achievement Award-North Conference Spencer Stone, Tam High

“This season was a special one for sure. Mountain biking has become the biggest part of my life and I am so grateful to have been nominated for this award by my peers. It was a great four years!”

Most Supportive Teammate, South Conference Miranda Urquides, Salinas High School

“It has been a honor to be apart of NorCal the past 4 years. This past year I finally got a varsity podium and I just want to thank all the varsity girls for being amazing ladies. I have made so many friends through biking including my best friend, Alison O’Dell. Ever since freshman year we have cheered on every rider from every team and winning the Most Supportive Teammate Award showed how people notice our kind actions and it warms my heart. Thank you NorCal for everything!”

Most Supportive Teammate, South Conference Allison O’Dell, Salinas High School

“This year’s race season would not have been the same without the friendships and support from other teams. Watching someone ride by with a huge smile on their face after us cheering them on makes my day. Stoke Captain, Arann, led us to consistently cheer kids on as loud as we could because we know how motivational it is for us when we’re racing and he’s right there yelling at us.”

Most Supportive Teammate, North Conference Kate Benjamin, Redwood High School

“I was honored and really surprised to receive the Most Supportive Teammate award! Being a part of the NorCal League these last four years has allowed me to meet so many great individuals who like mountain biking as much as I do. I enjoy helping out the newer riders and make them feel like they are a part of the team.”

Most Supportive Teammate, North Conference Julia Raddue, Marin Academy

“Nothing compares to the times I was supported by the NorCal league. They were there for me when I was first place and when I was almost last place. They were there for me when I came back after a serious injury, when I pushed my bike over the finish line with a broken chain my final race and everything in between. No matter where I placed, I was supported and I felt the love of the entire NorCal League. I am so honored to have received the Most Supportive Teammate award because I strive to embody someone who the NorCal League has taught me to be. They have taught me to be kind to my coaches, my teammates and everyone else that shows up at the starting line because this is what is most important and what makes racing in the high school mountain bike league meaningful and fun!”

Best Team Spirit, South Conference San Ramon Valley MTB Club

“SRV is all about having a safe, fun time on mountain bikes, so our club spirit is all about sharing the stoke about riding, we’re not necessarily about winning races, although that sure helps. Our riders really got into the themed races this year, and with some encouragement and help from our younger (alumni) coaches, earned the League’s award. The coaches and parents couldn’t be more proud of them. Also, we were so impressed by the leadership and enthusiasm that our captains Gabriella Dube and Jaden Davis brought to our club this year. Their mentoring of our younger riders and cheering and support for our racers created great positive team spirit. We certainly felt honored to be recognized by NorCal with the “ Team Spirit Award”, and are looking forward to even more team spirit and enthusiasm next season.” -Bruce Bilodeau and Ken Mozek

Best Team Spirit, North Conference Granite Bay Grizzlies

“This year was such a celebration of community. Starting early in the season, our riders connected both on and off the bike – they had fun, supported each other, and pushed their limits. It was amazing to see what these kids could accomplish as a team. The Granite Bay Grizzlies are blessed to be surrounded by the most awesome parents, ride leaders, and coaches and we are stoked to be chosen for the Spirit Award!” -Jon and Carrie Hyatt

Most Improved, South Conference Peter Bissell, Woodside Beasts

“Training me from a couch potato into a state-qualifying student athlete was no easy task. It required a tremendous amount of work from coaches and teammates who were strong-willed and dedicated to helping me reach my full potential. I appreciate everyone, from the awesome coaches and teammates on the Woodside beasts, to the high schoolers on other teams who pushed me to work my hardest, and especially everyone at NorCal who put forth extensive time and work to make this such a great environment for mountain bike racers.”

Most Improved, North Conference Mazzy Jones, St. Helena Thunderbirds

“This season I realized that one of the best things about racing is the freedom that comes with it, that I’m the only person in charge of my own success. So I just started setting goals. First I wanted to get under 15th, but then that actually happened, so I needed another goal. And then eventually I needed another…and another… It was so gratifying to know that my team and NorCal recognized my hard work.”

Best Team Spirit, North Conference Granite Bay Grizzlies

“This year was such a celebration of community. Starting early in the season, our riders connected both on and off the bike – they had fun, supported each other, and pushed their limits. It was amazing to see what these kids could accomplish as a team. The Granite Bay Grizzlies are blessed to be surrounded by the most awesome parents, ride leaders, and coaches and we are stoked to be chosen for the Spirit Award!” -Jon and Carrie Hyatt

Most Improved, South Conference Peter Bissell, Woodside Beasts

“Training me from a couch potato into a state-qualifying student athlete was no easy task. It required a tremendous amount of work from coaches and teammates who were strong-willed and dedicated to helping me reach my full potential. I appreciate everyone, from the awesome coaches and teammates on the Woodside beasts, to the high schoolers on other teams who pushed me to work my hardest, and especially everyone at NorCal who put forth extensive time and work to make this such a great environment for mountain bike racers.”